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Director Des McAnuff on ‘The Who’s Tommy’: “The world has perhaps caught up to Tommy Walker”

todayMarch 25, 2024

Background

Ali Louis Bourzgui (Tommy) and the ensemble of ‘The Who’s Tommy’/Photo credit Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

The newly reimagined version of The Who’s Tommy is set to open on Broadway Thursday, and director Des McAnuff, who also directed the original production, says the idea to bring it back was sparked by another Tommy project.

McAnuff tells ABC Audio he and The Who’s Pete Townshend were working on a movie version of the musical when the idea of bringing it back to the stage came up.

“I think we came to the realization that the world has perhaps caught up to Tommy Walker,” he explains, noting, “The piece seemed to take on a whole new kind of pertinence.” He adds, “It’s not so much that the piece changed radically, it’s that the world around us had changed.”

Based on The Who’s 1969 album and 1975 film, the original production of Tommy opened on Broadway on April 22, 1993. It won five Tony Awards, including Best Direction for McAnuff and Best Original Score for Townshend.

McAnuff says that even though it’s been 30 years since the original production, the story of Tommy is particularly relatable in our current climate, specifically in the second act, “when Tommy becomes this imam, guru, political leader, a rock star and has a kind of an epiphany about that.” He notes that it’s something “one would hope more leaders would do.” 

As for Townshend’s involvement, McAnuff says the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer is “wildly enthusiastic about the piece,” sharing that after decades of working together he sort of knows what Pete likes.

But, McAnuff says, “I would not consider doing anything without his blessing.” 

Tommy The Musical opens March 28 at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre. Tickets are available now.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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