In 1969, the Who established themselves as one of the most influential bands of the 20th century with the release of “Tommy.” Now over 40 years later the Springer is producing the Broadway musical version of the rock opera that changed the face of popular music.
In the intervening years “Tommy” has been produced as a ballet, an actual opera, a symphony and a film. It opens at the State Theatre of Georgia at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website says that “Tommy” is “barrier-shattering.” “The Who are one of the great bands in rock and roll history, and ‘Tommy’ is one of their greatest works,” said the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum’s curator Jim Henke. When “Tommy” was released conductor Leonard Bernstein said it is “a powerful performance that outstrips anything that has ever come out of a recording studio.”
“Tommy” is the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy who triumphs over his adversities to become the “Pinball Wizard.” At the end of World War II, Tommy’s paratrooper father returns home to his family. When Tommy sees his father accidentally kill a man, he is traumatized into catatonia. As an adolescent, he discovers his amazing talent for pinball and becomes an international superstar.
“Tommy” paved the way for subsequent concept albums, such as Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” But it also influenced musical theatre, leading to such shows as “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” according to Bill Demain in Mental Floss magazine. The Broadway version, “The Who’s Tommy,” opened in New York on April 22, 1993, and ran until June 17, 1995, for a total of 899 performances. It was nominated for 11 Tony awards and won five of them. It was nominated for nine Drama Desk awards, winning six.
Playing Tommy as an adult is Chris Tipp who is making his Springer debut. For the past seven months he’s been touring for the Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis. Playing Tommy as a child is Sophia Boyanchek and Patrick Chappel. It’s Boyanchek’s Springer debut. She’s a fourth grader at Bookstone. Playing Tommy as an older child, Patrick is a student at Columbus High. He’s appeared in Springer Mainstage productions of “Mary Poppins” (Michael), “Les Misérables” (Gavroche) and “The Wizard of Oz” (Munchkin). Alison Rose Munn returns to the Springer to play Mrs. Walker, Tommy’s mother. Munn lives in New York and last appeared at the Springer in “The Taffetas” (2007).
To celebrate the opening of “The Who’s Tommy,” the Springer is holding a pinball tournament in the lobby of the Springer from 4-6 p.m. Thursday. The theatre will take care of the quarters. Just bring your crazy flipper fingers and come prepared to prove that you’re the pinball wizard. The winner will get at Who T-shirt, two tickets to see “The Who’s Tommy” and bragging rights.
“The Who’s Tommy” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 5- 7 and May 12- 14 and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 15. For tickets or more info visit springeroperahouse.org or call 706-327-3688.