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The Who's "Tommy"


Music and lyrics by Pete Townshend. Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff. Additional music and lyrics by John Entwhistle and Keith Moon. Originally produced on Broadway by PACE Theatrical Group and Dodger Productions with Kardana Productions

Queen's Theatre, London - 6 February, 1979
St James Theatre, Broadway - 22 April, 1993 (900 perfs)

A smash-hit on both sides of the Atlantic, this powerful tale of a deaf, mute and blind pin-ball player who becomes an international messiah now bursts on the stage in this multi-award winning adaptation of the original chart-topping rock album. Hit songs include "Pinball Wizard", "See Me, Touch Me".

Peter Townshend’s tale of a young boy’s journey from pain to triumph is the most electrifying evening of rock and roll ever to play in a theatre!

After witnessing the accidental murder of his mother's lover by his father, Tommy is traumatized into catatonia, and as the boy grows, he suffers abuse at the hands of his sadistic relatives and neighbors. As an adolescent, he’s discovered to have an uncanny knack for playing pinball, and when his mother finally breaks through his catatonia, he becomes an international pinball superstar.

The classic '60s rock opera by The Who was translated to the stage by theatrical wizard Des McAnuff into a high-energy, one-of-a-kind theatrical event. The exhilarating score is timeless in its youthful appeal, giving the show a cross-generational appeal that has made it a smash-hit in high schools and colleges around the world. A small rock band orchestration and spectacular original Broadway production slides allow you to capture the excitement of the New York production on a modest budget.

The Rock Opera Tommy, which was first performed by The Who in 1969, was originally conceived by Pete Townshend and Kit Lambert with contributions to the development by John Entwhistle, Keith Moon and Roger Daltrey.



(The action is continuous with no blackouts or curtains until the end of each act.)

Act One


As the Overture begins, a slide projects the date 1940." Captain Walker, a handsome English officer in his mid-20s, is forced to wait as his plane is being fueled. Walker tries to get the attention of a masked Welder working nearby. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Walker taps the Welder's back. The Welder removes the mask; the Welder is a woman. Walker offers her a cigarette, which she accepts before walking away. He follows her.

R.A.F. officers and young English women appear, dancing the Jitterbug on a smoke-filled dance floor. Walker's older brother, Uncle Ernie, slowly walks around them, sipping tea. Walker and the Welder (now in a party dress), dance across the room and disappear. The officers and women separate, and we see Walker, still in uniform, and the Welder (now in a wedding dress), standing with their backs to us as a Minister faces them and performs a wedding ceremony. Uncle Ernie, who stands next to his brother, hands Walker the ring. After placing the ring on her finger, Walker and his new wife (Mrs. Walker) kiss passionately as the service continues.

We hear air raid sirens; Uncle Ernie puts on a civil defence armband as everyone scatters. Radio broadcasts of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and German Chancellor Adolph Hitler join the sound of the sirens; we also hear the drone of bomber engines overhead and explosions, accompanied by flashes of light on the horizon. Ernie hurries off.

A bed appears. Mrs. Walker is sleeping as Walker, who is dressed, leans over, kisses his wife, and slips away quietly. Walker is met by an Aide who helps him change into his a parachute-equipped flight suit. Other plane crew members are seen exercising at the edge of an airfield.

Walker joins soldiers who are seated in the hull of a Wellington bomber; the plane takes off. Anti-aircraft shells explode around them as a trap door opens between the two rows of soldiers. One by one, the soldiers leap out of the plane; Walker is the last to exit. We see Walker descending by parachute as two German soldiers appear, firing machine guns at the sky, which is full of descending paratroopers. The machine gun fire becomes deafening.

Scene One:

A slide announces "London." Uncle Ernie appears and knocks on the front door of the Walker house; he presents the pregnant Mrs. Walker with sardines, eggs, milk - all contraband food items. She thanks him, and as he leaves, he runs into two officers approaching the house. The officers tell Mrs. Walker that Captain Walker is missing and they don't expect to find him. Mrs. Walker takes the official papers from one of the officers, and steps back into the house, closing the door. The officers see Ernie and hand him a bottle of whiskey as they leave. Ernie slowly opens the bottle and takes a quick drink. He stands uncomfortable, alone. He reopens the bottle and takes a long drink; the doorway to the Walker's house disappears and Ernie is left alone on stage. A section of barbed wire appears and a German guard pushes along a line of Allied prisoners, including Walker. A slide announces the date "1941." Walker, seen in silhouette, paces back and forth.

Scene Two:

Uncle Ernie puts away the whiskey bottle as a Nurse pushes Mrs. Walker in a wheelchair. Another Nurse enters holding a small bundle, a baby boy, which she gives to Mrs. Walker. As Ernie continues swigging from the whiskey bottle, slides announce the passing years - "1942," "1943," "1944;" as we continue to see Walker pace back and forth. After a slide announces "1945," Allied soldiers enter the complex in which Walker is kept. One of the soldiers leads Walker away, telling him the Allies have won the war.

Scene Three:

Inside the Walker home, Mrs. Walker, her Lover and Four Year-Old Tommy are preparing to celebrate her 21st birthday: a cake with 21 candles, a bottle of champagne and 2 glasses sit on a table in the living room. The room also has a large wardrobe with a full length mirror on its face. The Lover, dressed in T-shirt and trousers with suspenders, watches tenderly as Mrs. Walker blows out the candles and cuts the cake. Both express the hope the coming year will be a good one. Mrs. Walker puts the boy in bed and enters the living room to join the Lover. Captain Walker, accompanied by two officers, approaches the front door of the Walker house. After the officers leave, Walker enters as Mrs. Walker and the Lover embrace.

When Mrs. Walker moves to touch Walker, the Lover pushes Walker back toward the door, which precipitates a fight and awakens Four Year-Old Tommy. The boy enters the room, and Mrs. Walker turns him toward the mirror, thinking this will keep him from witnessing the scene. The Lover and Walker continue fighting. When Mrs. Walker tries to separate the men, the Lover slaps her; he picks up a chair to throw at Walker. Walker, enraged, pulls out and fires his revolver, hitting the Lover in the head, killing him. After Walker lowers the gun, they notice Tommy, who has watched it all in the mirror. They hysterically tell Tommy, who is still facing the mirror, that he hasn't seen or heard anything, and they demand he never tell a soul what happened.

The police arrive as Mrs. Walker assures Tommy everything will be all right. Tommy doesn't respond to her questions and continues to stare into the mirror; the room takes on an unreal quality: doors take new positions, chairs fly through the air. As the police question Mr. and Mrs. Walker and military policemen arrive, the Narrator (Adult Tommy) flies down. He will be Four Year-Old Tommy's guide, even as the young boy's mind is occupied with recording everything it sees and hears. Uncle Ernie enters and tries to embrace his brother, but is held back by a policeman. After taking another drink, Ernie puts his arm around young Tommy, who is still staring in the mirror. The Narrator vanishes as the house disappears.

Scene Four:

Captain Walker, in uniform, is standing in court before a Judge and Barristers. The Judge pronounces the Captain "Not Guilty" of murder, and Mrs. Walker and Uncle Ernie celebrate the finding with the rest of the courtroom. When the Judge addresses Four Year-Old Tommy, we hear what Tommy hears: the language becomes unintelligible and he stares straight ahead. Tommy's parents realise what they may have done to him.

Scene Five:

Tommy is taken to a hospital where he is rushed from room to room for a series of tests and evaluations: a Young Doctor delivers Tommy to a Nurse who takes his pulse and gets a urine sample, as another Doctor waits nearby; another Nurse checks his reflexes and takes blood; a Doctor unbuttons his shirt and listens to his heartbeat; another Doctor looks into his eyes and ears. After studying Tommy's charts, a Doctor addresses the Walkers, shaking his head. The Walkers go away, leaving Tommy with the Doctors.

A slide announces "1950." Ten Year-Old Tommy, a balloon tied to his wrist, appears with a Nurse to meet his parents. The Narrator floats down, takes the balloon from the boy and floats away with it.

Scene Six:

The Walker family - including Ten Year-Old Tommy, Mr. and Mrs. Walker, Uncle Ernie, Cousin Kevin and other relatives - attend church at Christmas. The Minister and his wife listen as a choir sings. The family comments that Tommy isn't able to appreciate Christmas. The family greets the Minister and they all sit down to Christmas dinner. Even though there is a space for Tommy at the table, he sits on the floor in front of a large unopened present. As everyone says grace before eating, Walker continues to comment on Tommy's condition. Uncle Ernie plays the French horn to amuse the family, trying to get some response from Tommy, who doesn't respond to anything. Walker guides Tommy to his place at the table, and Mrs. Walker feeds him. The Narrator enters and touches Tommy, who gets out of his chair in response to the touch. Tommy's parents wonder if he has moved in response to their questions, as the Minister and the family wonder if Tommy will ever be "normal."

The Minister and his wife leave after dinner, and Uncle Ernie pours himself some beer as Carollers appear at the door. As the Walkers dance to the Carollers' music, Cousin Kevin picks up Tommy and spins him around like a toy. After some initial concern, Mrs. Walker relaxes and the Carollers comment that Tommy is oblivious to the meaning of Christmas. Everyone except Uncle Ernie leaves the stage.

Scene Seven:

Uncle Ernie is now in a bar, emptying his glass of beer. He leaves the bar and staggers to the door of the Walker house. He is there to baby-sit Tommy. Mrs. Walker is nervous about leaving Ernie alone with the boy, but Walker assures her everything will be fine.

After the Walkers leave for the evening, Uncle Ernie tells Tommy - who gives no sign of understanding - he is going to sexually abuse him. Ernie takes Tommy to the bedroom and puts him on the bed, which begins to spin; Tommy stares up at the ceiling, saying nothing. The bed stops spinning when the Walkers return home. Ernie jumps up to meet them at the door. After Ernie leaves, the Walkers fall on the couch in an embrace; they do not immediately notice Tommy has come into the room and is staring at the wardrobe mirror. His reflection becomes the Narrator, who implores the boy to see him. The room lights fade and we can only see young Tommy and the Narrator in the mirror.

Scene Eight:

Tommy is being watched by Cousin Kevin, his new baby-sitter. Kevin sings how Tommy will be his new toy as he puts a lampshade on Tommy's head; he takes him outside and dumps him upside-down in a trash can. Tommy is taken to the church youth group, where Kevin and his friends taunt him; they stop for a moment when the Minister and his wife enter.

Kevin and his friends put a penny in the pinball machine and put Tommy in front of it; they go off to play pool. Tommy begins to play the machine. He is soon winning, racking up a huge score. All the others gather around Tommy. The Narrator appears and articulates the feelings of excitement and awe the crowd feels as they watch Tommy play.

The Minister returns with Tommy's parents, who pull him away from the machine. They look at each other, recognising pinball as the first thing Tommy has responded to since the murder.

Scene Nine:

The Walkers take Tommy to a psychiatric clinic, where he is tested by the staff. When Tommy responds to the tests in his usual puppet-like manner, the Walkers again become very discouraged.

Scene Ten:

Tommy and his parents return home. A Hawker approaches Walker, who has lingered outside the door. The Hawker tells Walker about a woman and shows him some photos of her. Walker goes into the house and gets Tommy; they go with the Hawker.

Scene Eleven:

They arrive at the Isle of Dogs, a courtyard formed by walls of corrugated metal fencing. Fires burn in oil drums while a group of men and women pass around syringes, while others drink rubbing alcohol and bad beer. The Hawker tells Walker the woman in the picture - a prostitute known as the Acid Queen - has a magical power to heal.

The Acid Queen appears after shooting up with a syringe. She tells Walker if he pays for her services, she can make Tommy respond like a normal boy. Walker pays her, but as she is about to take Tommy away, Walker changes his mind; he picks Tommy up and rushes home with the boy. The Hawker takes the money from the Gypsy and gives her a full syringe. As she goes off to shoot up again, the Hawker leaves.

Scene Twelve:

A slide announces "1958" as Cousin Kevin, accompanied by a few Teddy Boys, arrives. Kevin and the Teddy Boys excitedly tell how Tommy has become the world's greatest pinball player. Soon they are at an Amusement Arcade. As they dance, we see Tommy - now 18 and portrayed by the Narrator - playing a pinball machine; as his score keeps rising, bells ring, lights flash and sirens wail. Kevin and the crowd continue to extol Tommy.

Act Two


As the orchestra plays the "Underture," a slide announces "1960." Tommy plays pinball as a crowd of Lads and Lasses excitedly cheer him on. When Tommy, now 20 years old and a neighbourhood celebrity, beats the machine, they pick him up and carry him over their heads through the streets, chanting as they move.

Scene Thirteen:

They carry him to his mother, who is at the Sunshine Launderette. As she hums "It's a Boy," Walker enters to announce he has found a new doctor for Tommy. They exit with Tommy.

Scene Fourteen:

A team of Specialists examines Tommy, who hears only the voice of Ten Year-Old Tommy. When the Specialists turn Tommy toward a large mirror, we see Ten Year-Old Tommy and Four Year-Old Tommy. Tommy joins them as they all sing to each other; Tommy begins to levitate as he sings with his younger selves; his levitation is unseen by his parents and the specialists. His parents again wonder what is happening to him. He raises his right hand and stares at it.

Scene Fifteen:

As Cousin Kevin and the neighbourhood Lads toss a ball, they surround Tommy. They ask him if he's cured. The Walker house appears: Uncle Ernie is asleep on the couch and the Walkers are playing cards. The Lads, who have carried Tommy home, deposit him on the couch, waking Ernie. Ten Year-Old Tommy appears in the wardrobe mirror and calls Tommy's name over and over; Tommy walks over to the mirror and stares at it.

Scene Sixteen:

The Walkers, seeing Tommy stare into the mirror, express their frustration with his condition and its effect on their own relationship; they tell Tommy they've almost given up hope for him. Tommy continues to stare at the mirror, where the image of Four Year-Old Tommy is still calling his name. Walker leaves the room in frustration.

Mrs. Walker begins to ask Tommy what he sees in the mirror. She asks if he can sense her rising anger. She picks up a chair, hurls it at and shatters the mirror. We hear the sound of the gunshot from long ago as the stage, for the first time, is plunged into darkness. We see the Lover thrown across the room by the force of the bullet. We also hear the Walkers telling Tommy he has neither seen nor heard anything, and he shouldn't ever say anything to anyone, ever. Finally, we hear Tommy scream.

When the lights rise again, Tommy is staring at the smashed mirror. As Mrs. Walker watches, Tommy begins to move around the room: he walks to the spot where the Lover had fallen years before and touches it; he walks to the mirror and touches it; he touches his own face. He faces his mother and reaches out to her. She embraces him, but he doesn't return the embrace. Mrs. Walker rushes to get her husband.

Tommy celebrates his new-found consciousness, as first the Walkers, then Uncle Ernie and finally the Minister all come to marvel at his recovery. Walker tries to embrace his son, who rebuffs him; Tommy then steps past his parents and walks off into the street.

Scene Seventeen:

Uncle Ernie is giving an interview about Tommy's cure to a Newspaper Reporter; when Ernie tries to sell the reporter a photo, the reporter leaves. Tommy enters and sees Ernie throw the photo away. Tommy's face is seen on the many video screens framing the stage. Tommy exits as a Newspaper Vendor enters hawking the front page article, which is about Tommy. Four Lads enter, steal the papers and continue hawking them.

Ernie begins reading a paper as Tommy enters, riding a pinball machine and announcing his own arrival. When the machine lands, Tommy is surrounded by awed reporters. When the Walkers arrive, the reporters soon swamp them, also. A slide announces "1961," as the Walkers tell the reporters though they don't see much of Tommy any more, they hope he is happy.

As the reporters move to Tommy, he is joined by Cousin Kevin and some of the Lads, now dressed as Security Guards. A slide announces "1962," as Kevin is interviewed by a TV crew; he says he has always believed in his cousin's greatness. A slide announces "1963." Tommy, now a star with a following, refuses an interviewer's question about his private life. His parents enter the studio unseen by Tommy. As Tommy tells the audience to follow him, more Lads dressed in uniforms join Tommy and Kevin. Video images of Tommy fill the stage as he climbs atop a huge, mirrored pinball machine. After donning a mask which blinds, deafens and mutes him, he straps himself onto the machine, which bucks and spins like a wild animal under him. Tommy plays the machine until it explodes into fire.

When Tommy steps back from the machine, a huge unseen crowd roars. Tommy mounts a podium in a huge stadium, facing a cheering crowd below him, and sings again of his freedom. As Security Guards patrol the screaming, adoring crowd, Tommy spins and dances as spotlights illuminate his face. The crowd asks him "How Can We Follow?"

Scene Eighteen:

We see a video of a long line of people. Uncle Ernie is hawking and selling "Tommy" merchandise to the people on line: T-shirts, mirrors, sunglasses, badges - anything. We see a video of Tommy's face as Security Guards, led by Cousin Kevin, hustle Uncle Ernie away.

Scene Nineteen:

The Security Guards get off the podium, swinging their billy clubs, leaving Tommy in the background. Cousin Kevin tells the story of Sally Simpson, whose father won't let her go to the stadium to see Tommy; as he sings, we see the scene played out. Sally sneaks out of the house and rides her motor scooter to see Tommy. When Sally arrives at the stadium, the crowd is in a frenzy; the police and the guards protect Tommy as he steps onto the stage. Sally rushes the stage and climbs the podium. When she tries to throw her scarf around Tommy's neck, he pushes her back into the Guards, who beat her up. Tommy jumps off the stage to stop the Guards; he picks her up as the crowd grows silent, watching it all.

Scene Twenty:

Tommy announces he's going home, and invites the stadium fans to come with him. Tommy collects the clubs from the Security Guards as the scene shifts from the stadium to the front of the Walker house. Tommy and Sally enter the house where his parents and Uncle Ernie are having tea; the fans and reporters all try to enter the house. Mrs. Walker helps the injured Sally into the bedroom as more and more people arrive at the door.

When Sally asks Tommy how she and all the fans can be more like him, Tommy says he's been waiting years to become more like them. The crowd doesn't want to hear this news from their idol and they complain. Tommy replies they don't need him to feel excitement. Sally and the crowd, sorely disillusioned, exit, leaving Tommy's parents, Uncle Ernie and Cousin Kevin.

Tommy looks into the mirror of the wardrobe and sees Ten Year-Old Tommy; they sing together. Tommy embraces each member of his family in a gesture of forgiveness; all the others in the story join Tommy as he sings of his realisation of his connection to his family and the world. The show ends as everyone but Tommy exits; we see Four Year-Old Tommy and Ten Year-Old Tommy staring in different directions as the adult Tommy looks at the audience through the frame of the mirror.

Musical Numbers

  1. Overture - Ensemble
  2. It's A Boy - First Officer, Second Officer, Nurses, Mrs. Walker
  3. We've Won - Allied Soldiers, Walker
  4. Twenty-One - Mrs. Walker, Lover, Walker
  5. Amazing Journey - Narrator
  6. Do You Think It's All Right? - Walker, Mrs. Walker
  7. See Me, Feel Me - Narrator
  8. Fiddle About - Uncle Ernie
  9. Cousin Kevin - Cousin Kevin, Lads, Lasses
  10. Sensation - Tommy
  11. Eyesight to the Blind - Hawker
  12. Acid Queen - Gypsy
  13. Pinball Wizard - Cousin Kevin, First Local Lad, Second Local Lad, Lads, Lasses
  14. There's A Doctor I've Found - Walker, Mrs. Walker
  15. Go to the Mirror Boy - Specialist, Assistant, Ten-Year-Old Tommy, Mrs. Walker, Walker, Four-Year-Old Tommy, Tommy
  16. Tommy, Can You Hear Me? - Cousin Kevin, Lads
  17. I Believe My Own Eyes - Walker, Mrs. Walker
  18. Smash the Mirror - Mrs. Walker
  19. I'm Free - Tommy
  20. Miracle Cure - Four Lads
  21. Sensation (reprise) - Tommy, Reporters
  22. I'm Free/ Pinball Wizard (reprise) - Tommy, Cousin Kevin, Guards
  23. Tommy's Holiday Camp - Uncle Ernie
  24. Sally Simpson - Cousin Kevin, Sally, Mr. Simpson, Mrs. Simpson, Guards, D.J., Tommy
  25. Welcome - Tommy, Cousin Kevin, Guards, Company
  26. We're Not Gonna Take It - Tommy, Guards, Reporters, Crowd
  27. Finale - Tommy, Ten-Year-Old Tommy, Walker, Mrs. Walker, Uncle Ernie, Cousin Kevin, Company

Cast: 20 men, 12 women, 2 children


Ground Crew, Flight Crew, R.A.F. Officers, Young English Women, Aide, Airborne Troops, German Foot Soldiers, Allied Prisoners, German Guard, Baby (Tommy), Policemen, Inspector, Military Officers, Constables, Doctors, Lab Technicians, Hospital Staff, Church Choir, Barkeep, Psychiatrist, Psychiatrist's Assistant, Thugs, Harlots, Drunks, Reporters, Interviewer, Crowd


Horn, percussion, 3 keyboards, 2 guitars, bass guitar