NUNN'S THEATER HABIT
The Who’s Tommy gives audiences just what they need
Thu. June 29, 2023 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn
The Who's Tommy debuted in Chicago at Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn Street, giving just what the audiences needed on June 26, 2023. The musical originally opened in San Diego at La Jolla Playhouse in 1992 and closed after 899 performances. The production has run across the globe over the years and now celebrates 30 years with a revival at the iconic Goodman Theatre.
Director Des McAnuff co-wrote the stage version of The Who's Tommy with The Who's guitarist Pete Townsend. Townsend was not in attendance for opening night in Chicago and McAnuff read a statement and explained what happened at curtain call.
The setup during the intro bursts briskly onto the stage during the overture and is crafted from the rock opera Tommy by The Who, a British band formed back in 1964. The album Tommy was released in 1969 and the British satirical movie came out in 1975. There are differences throughout all the media represented but the plot is similar.
The wild storyline follows the character of Tommy Walker as he navigates through many traumatic experiences in life to eventually become a famous pinball-playing expert.
The music hammers right into viewer's heads and the visuals are so spectacular that ticket holder's eyes could explode! Those that are easier triggered or were traumatized by the original flick need to know that some of the original material has been made more easily digestible. The production still has loud gunshots, child sexually predatory scenes and some violence.
Just know the creative staff has made these depictions as tasteful as possible and keep the vital material moving along, while not dwelling on the trauma.
There is little dialogue sometimes, especially in the first act and the focus remained on unforgettable visuals. Standout tracks include “Pinball Wizard” and “What About the Boy?”
There is not a weak link in the cast but Ali Louis Bourzgui displays some amazing powerhouse singing that might melt your face off or at least pop your eardrums. He makes vocal gymnastics look and sound easy, which is quite a feat to behold.
The writers don't quite know how to end the for Walker, but the journey is magical and will leave a memorable impression on audiences. It is the reason this musical has lasted over the decades to much success and the experience is certainly worth the trip to see it.
An arcade is open before and after the show in the lobby of Goodman Theatre on most dates and the highest score will win a custom Tommy Fender Stratocaster signed by Townsend. Now that is a promotion worth flipping for!
The soon-to-be smash hit revival has already extended twice and might go longer before it moves to New York City in the future. It's a departure from some of the Goodman Theatre ensemble's usual content and should be applauded for how well it is executed especially in terms of set and choreography.
This musical could follow the same path as Goodnight, Oscar did at the Goodman and take home all the trophies when the next Tony Awards roll around.
Grab a ticket before Tommy hits the road sometime after August 6, 2023, at GoodmanTheatre.org/Tommy. “Right behind you, I see the millions. On you I see the glory,” Tommy Walker fittingly says in the script.