Chicago's Goodman Theatre opens its 30th anniversary revival of The Who's Tommy in the Albert Theatre June 26; the production began June 13 and will continue through July 23. The musical's Tony-winning original director, Des McAnuff, is back at the helm of the newly reimagined revival.
Leading the cast are Ali Louis Bourzgui (The Band's Visit) as Tommy Walker, Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) as Captain Walker, and Alison Luff (Waitress) as Mrs. Walker, along with John Ambrosino (Les Misérables) as Uncle Ernie, Bobby Conte (Company) as Cousin Kevin, and Christina Sajous (SpongeBob SquarePants) as the Acid Queen (a role credited as "The Gypsy" in earlier iterations of the musical).
The ensemble features Jeremiah Alsop, Stephen Brower, Haley Gustafson, Sheldon Henry, Aliah James, Gabriel Kearns, Tassy Kirbas Lily Kren, Nathan Lucrezio, Alexandra Matteo, Morgan McGhee, Mark Mitrano, Reagan Pender, Daniel Quadrino, Jenna Nicole Schoen, Zach Sorrow, Ayana Strutz, and Andrew Tufano. Rounding out the company are child actors Ava Rose Doty, Presley Rose Jones, Annabel Finch, and Ezekiel Ruiz, who rotate playing Young Tommy.
The production is not a remount of McAnuff's Tony-nominated 1993 original production. The director has assembled an all-new creative team, including choreographer Lorin Latarro, music supervisor and arranger Ron Melrose, scenic designer David Korins, costume designer Sarafina Bush, lighting designer Amanda Zieve, sound designer Gareth Owen, and projection designer Peter Nigrini. Casting is by Lauren Port and Rachael Jimenez with New York casting by Tara Rubin Casting's Merri Sugarman. Tripp Phillips is the production stage manager with Nikki Blue and Jason Hindelang serving as stage managers.
The cast is backed by a nine-piece band led by pianist and conductor Rick Fox and also includes pianist and associate conductor Valerie Gebert, percussionist Bobby Everson, guitarist Chris Forte, horn player Jeremiah Frederick, bassist Larry Kohut, guitarist Felton Offard, keyboardist Rose Snyder, and drummer Jim Widlowski.
McAnuff has been eyeing a return for The Who's Tommy since at least 2019, when a Broadway revival was announced to hit the stage in 2021. Those plans never materialized due to the pandemic. The piece began as a 1969 rock concept album from The Who, which the band then performed live on tour. An early stage adaptation premiered in 1971 in Seattle featuring Bette Midler as both the Acid Queen and Mrs. Walker, and a screen version followed in 1975. McAnuff first staged the work in 1992 at California's La Jolla Playhouse, where he was artistic director, and that production moved to Broadway the following year.
The piece, which follows a young boy who overcomes acute trauma with the help of ace pinball skills, was originally mostly written by The Who guitarist Pete Townshend. The Broadway iteration credits Townshend with the musical's score as well as the book alongside McAnuff, with additional music and lyrics by the band's John Entwistle and Keith Moon.
"It’s at once an honor and a joy to again collaborate with Pete to realize the power and pertinence of The Who’s Tommy today," said McAnuff in an earlier statement. "While the music remains as glorious as ever, our world years later is unimaginably and irrevocably changed. As a result, there’s so much more we all can recognize—and celebrate—in our protagonist’s evolution, as a collective deeper understanding of mental health has sharpened our lens. Tommy Walker’s triumph over devastating childhood trauma, to enlightened leadership, to ultimately recognizing the folly in which he’s surrounded himself is an 'Amazing Journey' to discover anew."