Quadrophenia musicals

The first theatrical stage production of Quadrophenia was presented by Luna C Productions in Los Angeles in November 2005. Additional performances were produced in March and November 2006. In February 2007, a new production was staged at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, Wales, which was officially sanctioned by Pete Townshend in association with Industrial Language Ltd, and exclusive arrangement with Eel Pie Publishing. This production was directed by Tom Critchley and written by Jeff Young, with musical direction and orchestration by John O'Hara. A couple years later this production was reworked, recast and expanded into a successful full-scale UK tour which launched at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth in May 2009, and toured across the country for 6 months before closing at Coventry in October 2009.

Here are the details of this ground breaking musical stage production of Quadrophenia, followed by exclusive new interviews with Musical Director Elliott Ware and Musical Playwright Jeff Young that were conducted in June, 2014.


"I am excited about this new production. Its genesis in workshop in Cardiff was wonderful, and what is happening now with the Theatre Royal Plymouth feels right-sized on the one hand, but also insanely ambitious for such a tricky piece. It's taken a long time, and a lot of wrangling to accept that Quadrophenia is probably never going to work as conventional music theatre. So I hope for a grand and chaotic explosion of music and chorus that revives the memories of being young in the '60s, but also brings those memories to life in the 21st century." Pete Townshend - 2009


Quadrophenia Stage Production

Production Credits

Music, Lyrics and concept by Pete Townshend
Stage Adaptation by Jeff Young, John O'Hara and Tom Critchley
Produced by Bill Schultz, Ina Meibach, and Theatre Royal Plymouth
Director Tom Critchley
Written by Jeff Young
Musical Supervisor & Arrangements John O'Hara
Set Design Sophie Khan
Costume Design Carl Perry
Choreography Frances Newman
Lighting Design Ace McCarron
Fight Direction Kevin McCurdy
Sound Design Jason Barnes
Musical Director Elliott Ware
Casting Director Pippa Ailion



Ryan O’Donnell (Jimmy – Romantic)
Jack Roth (Jimmy – Lunatic)
George Maguire (Jimmy – Tough Guy)
Rob Kendrick (Jimmy – Hypocrite)
Sydney Rae White (The Girl)
Kirsty Malone (Mum)
Dawn Sievewright (Guardian Angel)
Iris Roberts (Guardian Angel)
Lillie Flynn (Guardian Angel)
John Schumacher (Dad)
Kevin Wathen (The Godfather)
Ryan Gage (Ace Face)
Tom Robertson (Gang Leader)
Daniel Curtis (Swing)
Sean Croke (Swing)
Brennan Reece (Swing)

Quadrophenia Cast


Quad Musicians


MD/Keyboards 1 - Elliott Ware
Keyboards 2 - Tim Whiting
Guitar 1 - Nick Kendall
Guitar 2 - James Canty
Bass - Steffan Iestyn Jones
Drums - Greg Pringle
Brass - Owain Harries
Cello - Anna Menzies
Violin - Miriam Davis


2009 Tour Dates

Plymouth Theatre Royal, May 9-16
Birmingham Hippodrome, May 18-23
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, May 25-30
Glasgow Kings Theatre, June 1-6
Bath Theatre Royal, June 8-13
Manchester Opera House, June 15-20
Sunderland Empire, July 6-11
Cambridge Arts Theatre, July 20-25
Cheltenham Everyman, July 27-Aug. 1
Leeds Grand, Aug. 3-8
Nottingham Concert Hall, Aug. 10-15
Aberdeen His Majesty's, Aug. 17-22
Liverpool Empire, Aug. 24-29
Brighton Theatre Royal, Aug. 31-Sept. 5
Wolverhampton Grand, Sept. 21-26
Coventry Belgrade, Sept. 28-Oct. 3

Quad First PreviewPass






Interview with Musical Director Elliott Ware on Future Radio Norfolk from 2009.


Interview with Elliott Ware - June 2014

Elliott WareElliott Ware worked as Musical Director for Pete Townshend's Quadrophenia (stage production) in 2009, and as co-Musical Director, Keyboard Player and String Arranger for The Who’s performance of Quadrophenia at The Royal Albert Hall in 2010.

Elliott has also performed with other legendary artists such as Alice Cooper, and Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen. He is currently working alongside Ray Davies as Music Supervisor/Music Director/Arranger and Orchestrator for the world premier of Sunny Afternoon about the formative years of The Kinks. Other work as Musical Supervisor and/or Musical Director includes Rock of Ages (West End/UK Tour), Queen's We Will Rock You (London/Canada), Footloose (Playhouse), and Rocky Horror Show (UK tour). He has played keyboards for Wicked, Spamalot, Zorro, The Sound of Music (all West End), and Flashdance (UK tour).

When did you first meet Pete Townshend, and how did you become involved with the stage production of Quadrophenia?

I'd been music director at a show called We Will Rock You for about three years, which was set up by the rock group Queen. The bass player for that show was Neil Murray who played with Black Sabbath and Whitesnake. One of his deps/subs [stand-ins] was Jonathan Noyce. Jon had played with Jethro Tull for about ten years and as it happened Tull was one of my favourite bands. It was via Jon that I got an interview for the Quadrophenia stage production. I'd been unemployed and was Googling around to see what might be out there, and on a forum I saw one of the discussion threads mentioned Quadrophenia. I saw that there was an intention to bring it to the stage and I looked up the names of the creative team....the director Tom Critchley, the book writer Jeff Young and the music supervisor/arranger John O'Hara. I looked them up and saw that John O'Hara was in fact the keyboard player of Jethro Tull at that time, so I contacted Jon Noyce and he passed me John's e-mail address. It's always who you know isn't it? I guess you have to be able to do the job, but I've only ever got work through people I know or have met...

The first time I met Pete was in one of the cast auditions. We'd been doing them for a few days in Brixton, and in walked Pete one day. A towering figure physically, in demeanor and artistically. That's when the heart takes a jump, the first time you see someone you admire and for whom you are essentially working. I relish it though. I'm not easily intimidated or over awed, but I am full of respect and admiration.

How much input did Pete have for the musical direction and casting of the production? Did he give any specific brief or suggestions?

Pete had handed over the creative control of the stage production, so he oversaw it as opposed to contributing artistically. Of course you'd be foolish to not welcome his thoughts and input in the process, so if he made suggestions you'd want to listen. He had preferences with regards to who we picked for the production, so if he was keen on someone we went with his choice. Musically he sat in for many of the rehearsals and would make comments and suggestions. But he didn't try and control events or direction.

What was your process for adapting the music from the studio album and bringing it to the stage?

The musical arrangements for the production weren't mine. They were John O'Hara's. But I did influence what was played and how it was played. I listened to the album many times and would identify bits I thought necessary or stylistically important and would ensure they were there and played with the right intention. During the run I would constantly evolve and tweak the music.

What qualities were important for the actors and musicians to have in order to bring the music of Quadrophenia to life?

The creative team wanted actors and not typical music theatre people. There are pros and cons to that. The pros are that actors are usually more 'real', the cons are that they may not be able to sing!! Ha! But that's my job as a music director...to realise the music...and if I need to spend time with someone to get them to sing in the right way, then that's what I'll do. The cast were brilliant. The experience was thrilling. They were all characters, with bags of personality. Not polished in a shiny artificial over schooled way, but were earthy, visceral and very talented. Many of us have remained friends and incidentally I am now working on a production about The Kinks with two of the cast members from Quadrophenia. George Maguire who plays Dave Davies suggested me as MD and I in turn put forward Lillie Flynn who plays Rasa, Ray Davies' first wife.

How was the stage band integrated into the action that took place on the stage? Were they part of the story, or more in the background?

The band were in view, there were nine of us. Two guitars, two keyboards, drums, bass, brass player, violin and cello. We weren't part of the action too much. We played on a two tiered scaffold and the actors would join us up there at times. We were fully on view and that adds to the drama in itself.

Was there any additional music or sound effects used, other than what was played by the band?

We added some other Who songs to help the narrative but also so some of the hits were present. We played them all live. Can't Explain, Substitute, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Heatwave, So Sad About Us, Zoot Suit (I think....can't remember) and My Generation as the encore. As far as the Quadrophenia music is concerned we used sound effects for the sea, thunder, kettle boiling and cat noise (or whatever that is in I Am The Sea)!

Did you have any favorite songs that you felt worked particularly well as a musical number? Were there any that didn’t work as well?

On a general note what I love about Pete's writing is the rollercoaster of emotion and colour he uses in his music. As well as the unadulterated hard edged stuff, he can write so tenderly. It has sentiment but is never sentimental. And he doesn't dwell either. So you are propelled forward. As far as Quadrophenia is concerned it is all my favourite. I just love it. Not sure I can pick which songs I like best as it is definitely a piece of music... a composition. I adore Cut My Hair and of course Love Reign O'er Me and the two instrumentals that bookend the album are monumental....majestic. A particular thrill to play at each performance was the last twenty minutes or so. Sea and Sand, Drowned, Bell Boy, Dr Jimmy, The Rock and finally to cap it all Love Reign O'er Me. It is unremitting in its scale and drama, building bit by bit....until there is nowhere left to go. Glorious...joyous...life enhancing.

Did you perform with the stage band during performances, or were you strictly working behind the scenes on that project?

The audition process will have lasted about three or four weeks and the rehearsals were probably five weeks.....I can't quite remember. I did play keyboards/piano and conduct every night once the tour was up and running. I had an assistant musical director who played keyboards as well. Occasionally he would get a stand in or dep to play his keyboard chair and he would play my chair. That's so I could watch the performance from out front to take notes and make sure everything was still sounding good.

You also worked as the Musical Director and played keyboards for The Who when they performed Quadrophenia at the TCT Royal Albert Hall concert in 2010. How did working with The Who on that show compare to your work on the musical? Did you leverage the work you did for the stage production, or draw on The Who’s 1996/97 Quadrophenia production?

In the stage production I played most of the piano stuff. In the concert I did of Quadrophenia Rabbit played the piano stuff, so I played everything else! Although we had a full brass section I was keen to double some of that because some of the sounds on the album are synth oriented and I wanted that colour to be there too. The concert with The Who was essentially a copy of the '96/'97 tour, not musically necessarily but as a production. I didn't copy what Jon Carin did. I knew that music inside out of course from doing the stage production but I spent weeks relearning the album top to toe, programming my keyboard sounds meticulously, writing string arrangements as Pete wanted a couple of string players and learning everything I thought appropriate. I even played certain guitar licks if they weren't covered by Pete or Simon. Eddie Vedder guested for that performance and complimented me on what I was doing, so that was nice to hear. I had invested a load of time for that performance and it will always be a treasured memory. I'd say that was the most complete version they have done of Quadrophenia and it's a shame, not least for me, that we only ever did it once. Nothing was clicked or on track and had we done more performances it could have been truly astonishing and unsurpassed.

You are currently working with Ray Davies as the MD for ‘Sunny Afternoon’, the brand new musical about the early days of the Kinks. What is it like working with such legendary talents as Ray and Pete, and how would you compare their working style and involvement with staging productions of their classic works?

It's a thrill of course. They are of a type, but individuals. There's an unusualness about them which I really warm to! They are deep thinkers, creative, erudite, naughty, mischievous, solemn.....the full spectrum. I've actually got to know Ray more. He's been more present in the Sunny Afternoon production than Pete was with Quadrophenia. But their presence makes all the difference. They have a vibe, and I love it.


Interview with Jeff Young - June 2014

Jeff Young lives in Liverpool and has been writing for nearly 30 ears. His work includes 35 radio plays including four autobiographical drama documentaries and the site specific drama documentary ‘Carandiru’, recorded in a prison in San Paulo, Brazil. He has been nominated for Prix Europa, Prix Italia and Sony Radio Awards. Jeff works in collaboration with artists, musicians, choreographers and film makers. His work has been performed in a drained submarine dock, a disused power station, parks, gardens, a derelict school, ferry terminals and haunted buildings.

Jeff worked on a variety of projects with Pete Townshend, including ‘Lifehouse’, a Radio 3 drama, book and multi CD archive, and a touring version of 'Quadrophenia'.

His TV work includes the BBC dramas Eastenders, Doctors, Casualty and Holby City. His CBBC children’s drama ‘Download’ won an RTS North Award. In theatre, Jeff’s magical and poetic work has been produced by Bristol Old Vic, Northern Stage, Kaboodle, Kneehigh, Liverpool Everyman and Unity and many other theatres internationally. He has worked in opera, puppet theatre, site specific and installation, public art projects, lantern parades, musicals, poetry, sound art and spoken word. His film ‘The Don’ is scheduled to be filmed in 2015, directed by Marc Munden. In October 2014 the Liverpool Everyman will stage Jeff’s epic play ‘Bright Phoenix’ as part of the theatre’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.

For more information about Jeff Young, please visit his blog site.

When did you first become acquainted with Pete Townshend? What other projects have you worked on with him?

I first met Pete in 1999. I had worked with Tom Critchley on a couple of plays at Bristol Old Vic and he had gone to work for Pete. Coincidentally Pete was in talks with BBC Radio 3 about doing a production of Lifehouse. The producer at the BBC was Kate Rowland who I had done a lot of radio work with so when they were talking about writers, my name came up. Pete listened to a drama I did called Pino Pelosi, I went to Richmond to meet Pete and got the job.

I worked on Lifehouse as a radio drama and book and was involved in various meetings about the Chronicles box set.

I also worked on the stage version of Quadrophenia in various stages of development over a period of years.
How did you become involved with the musical stage production of Quadrophenia?

Becoming involved with the stage version was a progression from my involvement with Lifehouse. I wasn’t always the writer – Joe Penhall was on board at one stage. But after about eight years of the project being either on or off, suddenly it was on with American producers on board and I was part of the creative team as the designated writer.
Did Pete collaborate at all with you on the storyline, or provide any suggestions?

There were all kinds of conversations over the years. By the time we were in rehearsals in Plymouth Pete was in rehearsals as much as he could be. There were many meetings and talks and throwing ideas around and Pete’s suggestions were brought into the script. There was a devising element to rehearsals – much of that was to do with getting the images right and the choreography. Pete was great at challenging everyone and questioning the script and process. To have him in rehearsals so much was brilliant.
How did you go about translating Pete’s lyrics into a full blown story for a musical? Did you need to add any additional lyrics to help tell the story?

Because we weren’t staging the film and were trying to stage the original album we used the album photo-story to develop a lot of narrative. The story was a mixture of lyrics, the photographs and sleeve and research into mod culture. We added various Who songs from the period such as Substitute. One of the challenges of Quadrophenia is that the music isn’t mod, isn’t 1964. You’re telling a story about the early 1960’s using music that was written in the 1970’s. So we hoped that the inclusion of Anyway, Anyhow…and other Who songs would give us some period feel and also more narrative.
As a playwright, how did you find writing a treatment for a musical where the words are sung and not spoken?

I found it liberating. It meant I could focus on visual storytelling. If you haven’t got dialogue you have to rely on the emotional and narrative drive of the music and lyrics and find the visual imagery to reinforce those elements. So you write for stage imagery, fight scenes, landscape, weather, the ocean, emotional power, objects and so on. You can write an umbrella into the script and it gives you resonating images. Suddenly you’ve got a girl, singing a powerful love song in the rain on Brighton beach. Because some of the lyric content is impressionistic and not direct storytelling you have to hope that the visual imagery and the choreography add layers to the story.
What literary form did you use to write the story, such as a book or libretto, and was this ever published?

Quadrophenia was never published. It wouldn’t work as a piece in the pages of a book without photographs and perhaps a CD of songs. The pieces of A4 I have are not representative of what was seen on stage. They only give a hint of one aspect. Quadrophenia on stage – whatever its strengths and weaknesses – was a piece of theatre made up of far more ingredients than just a script. The script can only be a guide.
Did the story from the Quadrophenia movie or photos from the original studio album influence your writing at all?

I didn’t use the movie at all. Some movie references seeped into the staging I suppose. As I say above though, the studio album photographs were very influential.
In the production, four actors were used to portray the four different facets for Jimmy. How did you go about splitting up the lyrics for the characters, and how easy or difficult was this concept to create and get across to the audience?

Splitting the lyrics between four different facets was difficult and constantly debated. It kept changing all the time and even changed on tour if I remember rightly. The concept was risky and divided opinion but you have to stick to your ‘vision’. The four facets idea came from Tom Critchley and collectively the creative team worked out, through trial and error how the lyrics should be split. Did we get it right? Probably not! Or probably only a percentage. It’s a very difficult thing to get right.
Did any songs in particular stand out to you as a centerpiece for the story?

The highlight dramatically was Bell Boy because the staging was some of the most successful. We got the dramatic impact of the violence right in that number. The emotional highlight was Love Reign O’er Me. Every time I heard that song I cried. Still do.
Did you need to make any changes to the storyline during the theatrical run of the production?

Yes it changed all the time. It was still in rehearsal, still evolving for a great deal of the tour and it had three different directors, each with their own ideas about how it should be staged and how the story worked – or didn’t work.
How did writing for the stage production of Quadrophenia compare to working with Pete on Lifehouse?

They’re two very different beasts. Lifehouse was much more ‘in the head’, lots of thinking and solitary writing and then meetings with Pete, the producer Kate Rowland and Tom Critchley. A lot of the work was about trying to realize and honour Pete’s original vision for Lifehouse, which was his great, ‘lost’ project. Very careful, thoughtful process.

Quadrophenia was much more of a group process. Tom, me, John O’Hara the musical supervisor, Pete…and then the producers Bill and Ina had input. It was a very full on process. The early stages of script writing were one stage and then the Plymouth weeks were like collectively trying to solve an enormous puzzle. It all got a bit mad!




The rock opera unfolds in a string of musical numbers, without dialogue. Intriguingly, the four aspects of Jimmy’s character – romantic, tough guy, lunatic,hypocrite – are portrayed simultaneously by four different actors. The staging and direction are inspired… it all adds up to a couple of hours that suck you in, chew you up, and spit you out exhilarated, drained, but positively on fire.


Visually and musically stunning from the word go, this new production of Pete Townshend’s classic story of teenage alienation is an absolute triumph. The set is ingenious, particularly in the second act in which it has to represent a railway station, a pier and a dance hall, among other things, and the lighting and effects build to a crescendo in an extraordinary final 20 minutes that brought a spontaneous roar and standing ovation from the audience.


Pete Townshend’s rock opera Quadrophenia enjoyed its theatrical world premiere in Plymouth with an energetic and imaginative production that was at its best when at its most operatic and cinematic… director Tom Critchley manages the neat trick of making this epic tale an intimate one… There are some clever theatrical touches, beautifully choreographed physical acting and stimulating visuals. Performances are consistently good in this ensemble piece… but, the music’s the thing with Quadrophenia and the score – and the excellent band – don’t disappoint… it has hit written all over it.


Townshend is said to have created the concept of “rock opera”, but over the years the term has been used rather loosely to describe what are usually little more than contemporary musicals. But this is the real thing, true opera. While the film adaptation of Quadrophenia had a clear narrative about youth culture of the 1960s, the stage version – like grand opera – is a clear demonstration of style over story. The basic theme of tormented youngster Jimmy Cooper adopting – and later rejecting – the mod lifestyle in an attempt to fit in with his peers, is unchanged, the plot is much simpler, focusing on spectacular choreography and emotionally charged delivery of Townshend’s songs to convey the angst–ridden message. This is perhaps more true to Townshend’s original intention. “There was no story in place on the album, just a journey that was deliberately left vague and open so that people listening could get inside it,” says the creator. To emphasise Jimmy’s split personality, the character is played by four different actors, each representing one of his different personae – romantic, mad, tough and hypocritical. Telling which of the parka‐clad young men is which is difficult at times, but perhaps this is intentional, emphasising the youngster’s confused state of mind. It is a dark, troubling production, without a happy ending. As commentator Ed Hanel puts it, this is no celebration of youth culture, but rather a call to grow up. “The album is a call to wake up and realise we can’t stay young forever,” he says. How fitting then, that yesterday’s mods are today’s opera buffs.


Set in the early 1960’s, when battles between the Mods and the Rockers on Brighton beach made news headlines across the country, the plot centres on the teenage Jimmy, or rather the four aspects of Jimmy – romantic, lunatic, hypocrite and tough guy – which inhabit his emotionally charged mind. As Jimmy ducks and dives from one personal disaster to the next, his mind reeling with possibilities and choices, he meets The Girl and falls in love, only to see her taken from him by a rival. A fateful trip to Brighton will soon find his life changed again, though not necessarily for the better. With its storyline told only in song, Quadrophenia demands audience attention at all times, something achieved here thanks to the powerful performance of the band and the strong vocals of the cast, in particular Ryan O’Donnell as “romantic” Jimmy. Tim Roth’s son Jack steps out of his father’s shadow with another impressive turn, while Sydney Rae White’s version of Love Reign O’er Me proved the hit of the evening. Setwise, the show looks like every penny has been put on stage, an impressive central rotating section allowing the cast to clamber over and around it while acting out the emotionally charged scenes of death and destruction. A glorious attack on the senses, its mesmerising final sequence clearly rehearsed to within an inch of its life, this is everything good musical theatre should be, plus a little bit more for good measure.


Quadrophenia is an extraordinary word that was the title of an extraordinary rock album. It then subsequently went on to be an extraordinary film and this week theatre goers in Bath have seen that it has now been reborn into an extraordinary stage play too. The film is a mixture of words and music but the stage play is totally different. It is quite simply a rock opera and the entire story is told through the Who’s incredible music and by the vivid acting of the four people who simultaneously play Jimmy. Yes, four people. At the same time. Staged in just two acts, the play takes us from Jimmy’s troubled home life to the beaches of Brighton where the mods versus rockers battles go on, but more importantly Jimmy’s battles within himself intensify. This is simply a superb production. The music is relentless, powerful and mesmerising – and the action on stage is exactly the same. An incredibly young cast display unlimited energy, passion and commitment and they leave you with the feeling that they are really living the various roles they inhabit. At the end of the two mesmerising hours, the faultless cast and musicians were rewarded with a thoroughly deserved standing ovation. They were applauding that rare beast – a rock opera that truly worked and which gave us all a truly absorbing and unforgettable evening.


Young, vibrant and in your face, Quadrophenia is a show you simply must see. The singing is simply out of this world and if you’re looking for a showstopper to savour, to talk about, to rave about as you drift away from the Opera House, check out Love Reign O’er Me at the end of act two. It’s simply sensational. The musical may be a cult with the Mods but you don’t have to be a Mod to enjoy it. The Who’s Pete Townshend has written a quality score and, believe me the cast do it justice. In fact, they sing as if singing in public is about to be banned and they want to experience the natural high it gives people, for one last time. I’m not going to single out individual performances as the whole ensemble contribute to this evening of theatrical magic, making sure we share the growing pains of the characters on stage. They rock until they drop – well, almost. Unmissable.


Produced, researched and written by Carrie Pratt.

Many thanks to Tom Critchley, Elliott Ware, and Jeff Young for all their help and additional references.

Tommy musicals

Over the years, Pete Townshend’s rock opera Tommy has enjoyed a variety of stage incarnations, beginning with the 1971 Seattle Opera production that featured Bette Midler as the Acid Queen. In 1972, Lou Reizner presented an all star orchestral production at the Rainbow Theatre in London that included Steve Winwood, Rod Stewart, Sandy Denny, Richie Havens, and Ringo Starr. The Reizner production was repeated in 1973 with a different cast that included David Essex, Vivian Stanshall, Marsha Hunt, and Jon Pertwee. The Who have toured their own concert versions of Tommy since the release of the album in 1969, including a twentieth anniversary reunion tour in 1989 that was highlighted by a special presentation in Los Angeles that featured a stellar cast of special guests such as Elton John, Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, Patti LaBelle, and Billy Idol.

In 1991, Pete Townshend collaborated with theatrical director Des McAnuff to write and produce a musical adaptation of Tommy, which opened at the La Jolla Playhouse in 1992, moved to the Saint James Theatre on Broadway in 1993, and had a revival at the Shaftsbury Theatre in the West End of London in 1996. The production has continued to flourish in regional tours throughout North America and Europe over the last 20 years. Des McAnuff is currently reuniting with the original 1993 production team to bring Tommy back to the stage at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, which is scheduled to run from May 4 to October 19, 2013. The following is the history of this ground breaking musical stage production of Tommy.




Written by:  Pete Townshend

Directed by:  Des McAnuff

Development:  November 1991 – June 1992

Stage debut:  July 9, 1992, Mandell Weiss Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego, California

Broadway:  Debuted on April 22, 1993, St James Theatre.  Closed on June 17, 1995 after 899 performances.

West End:  Debuted on March 5, 1996, Shaftesbury Theatre.  Closed on February 8, 1997.




1993 Tony Award – Best Original Score - Pete Townshend
1993 Tony Award – Best Direction of a Musical - Des McAnuff
1993 Tony Award – Best Scenic Design - John Arnone
1993 Tony Award – Best Lighting Design - Chris Parry
1993 Tony Award – Best Choreography - Wayne Cilento
1993 Drama Desk Award - Outstanding Director of a Musical - Des McAnuff
1993 Drama Desk Award - Outstanding Lighting Design - Chris Parry
1993 Drama Desk Award - Outstanding Sound Design - Steve Canyon Kennedy
1997 Lawrence Olivier Award – Best Musical Revival
1997 Lawrence Olivier Award – Best Director - Des McAnuff
1997 Lawrence Olivier Award – Best Lighting Design - Chris Parry


Plot Synopsis
Interview with Pete Townshend in Los Angeles Times

Musical Numbers

Overture - Ensemble
It's A Boy - First Officer, Second Officer, Nurses, Mrs. Walker
We've Won - Allied Soldiers, Walker
Twenty-One - Mrs. Walker, Lover, Walker
Amazing Journey - Narrator
Do You Think It's All Right? - Walker, Mrs. Walker
See Me, Feel Me - Narrator
Fiddle About - Uncle Ernie
Cousin Kevin - Cousin Kevin, Lads, Lasses
Sensation - Tommy
Eyesight to the Blind - Hawker
Acid Queen - Gypsy
Pinball Wizard - Cousin Kevin, First Local Lad, Second Local Lad, Lads, Lasses
There's A Doctor I've Found - Walker, Mrs. Walker
Go to the Mirror Boy - Specialist, Assistant, Ten-Year-Old Tommy, Mrs. Walker, Walker, Four-Year-Old Tommy, Tommy
Tommy, Can You Hear Me? - Cousin Kevin, Lads
I Believe My Own Eyes - Walker, Mrs. Walker
Smash the Mirror - Mrs. Walker
I'm Free - Tommy
Miracle Cure - Four Lads
Sensation (reprise) - Tommy, Reporters
I'm Free/ Pinball Wizard (reprise) - Tommy, Cousin Kevin, Guards
Tommy's Holiday Camp - Uncle Ernie
Sally Simpson - Cousin Kevin, Sally, Mr. Simpson, Mrs. Simpson, Guards, D.J., Tommy
Welcome - Tommy, Cousin Kevin, Guards, Company
We're Not Gonna Take It - Tommy, Guards, Reporters, Crowd
Finale - Tommy, Ten-Year-Old Tommy, Walker, Mrs. Walker, Uncle Ernie, Cousin Kevin, Company

Background Notes

In late 1991, Pete Townshend made an agreement with the PACE Theatrical Group to stage Tommy, in partnership with a group of theatrical producers known as Dodger Productions, one of whom was Des McAnuff, Tony award-winning director of California’s La Jolla Playhouse who ended up producing the work.  “I wanted to be able to work with Pete,” McAnuff commented in the 1993 book The Who’s Tommy, co-authored by Townshend.

"Of course, I didn’t really expect him to say yes, but I immediately began to prepare.  I listened to the original album, and the only decision I made firmly at that point was that I wanted to maintain real respect for the original recording.  I wouldn’t want to update it or make it sound like a nineties version.  I wanted to capture the sound and spirit of the original and treat it as a classical piece of rock-and-roll…"

McAnuff also wanted a more realistic Tommy than Russell’s rendition.  “…we were not interested in exploring Tommy as a fantasy,” he wrote in American Theatre in 1993.

"We believed that the “Amazing Journey” described in the lyric was best achieved by grounding the members of Tommy’s family, the Walkers, on some kind of recognizable landscape.  …Ken Russell… had in his 1974 motion picture already given us the fantasy extravaganza (which lives on as a prime example of that particular genre of filmmaking from the ‘70s) and we were more interested in exploring Tommy as a dramatic theatre piece."

Development began in November 1991.  “From the moment I met Des in London,” Pete recalled in 1993, “I felt he was absolutely right.  What struck me was that he understood the rock’n’roll ethic that underlays Tommy.   He never let go of it.  He’s always held on to the fact that the original songs are all a very important part of the spiritual quality of the piece.”

“We just talked and talked and talked and talked about the outline,” McAnuff said in 1993.  “Pete had a lot of comments, and we switched some things around, and we talked philosophically about the piece.  I think quite quickly in that five hours we also made the biggest decisions—the decision about having more than one Tommy [1]; the critical decision to keep Tommy a local hero for as long as possible, to keep that rise to power very brief; and the decision to create a story about a West London family and to ground it in some way—not to make it a fantasy or go in the direction that I think it’s gone in other versions.”

McAnuff explained the play’s timeline to American Theatre in 1993:  “…Pete and I agreed that what we were dealing with was, in essence, a postwar story set against the background of historical events that led up to the 1960s, so the blitzkrieg of 1940 and the rock-and-roll British invasion of 1963 became the bookends for our timeline.”

“By Christmas we’d really made most of our decisions,” McAnuff wrote in The Who’s Tommy.  “We’d pitched the song order back and forth by fax…  What we did was tell each other the story, more or less.  We would walk through each act, scene by scene, and I would describe some of the visual work that I thought we could do, and Pete would talk about philosophy and then we would discuss themes and characters.”

“…there were substantial gaps in the story line that needed to be addressed in order to realize a full theatrical presentation of the piece,” McAnuff wrote in American Theatre.

The delicacy of the original story – about a traumatized youngster who rises to pop stardom as a deaf, dumb and blind pinball virtuoso – was one of the concept album’s great strengths.  It inspired a willing audience to fill in its own personal detail, and the ambiguities and puzzles that the album served up were consistent with Pete’s ambitions to create a spiritual journey.  We wanted very badly to preserve the strength of the original recording.  At the same time, in order to produce a viable theatre piece, we needed to flesh out and expand the original.

A key piece of Tommy which needed attention was the ending.  “…I have learned there is a vital difference between the simple rock song and the conventional music theatre play – that it’s necessary to bring a story to a conclusion, something you never have to do in rock-and-roll,” Pete wrote in The Who’s Tommy.  “When I originally created Tommy, I did it with the understanding that people of the time were exploring the limits of their imaginations,” Pete told the San Jose Mercury News in July 1994.

"They were in pursuit of spiritual awakening.  When they sat down to listen to Tommy with a joint in hand or whatever, they were saying to themselves – and probably to me – ‘We want to go somewhere.’  And I specifically left parts of the story open to allow them to reflect and review.

But with this version of Tommy I approached it from the point of view of the dramatist.  Onstage, you have to tie things up in a sense.  And I did tie it up at the end.  But I didn’t add anything that wasn’t there to begin with."

Pete was referring to the rewritten ending during which Tommy reunites with his family, embracing each of them, including Cousin Kevin and Uncle Ernie.  Together, Tommy and family sing Listening To You.  Many observers were critical of this ending due to its ‘happily ever after’ implication.  “We’ve had people come away thinking it’s a Nancy Reagan ‘family values’ message,” Pete told the New York Daily News in July, 1993.  “We’d like to make it clear that it’s not.”   Indeed, Pete told the L.A. Daily News in 1994 that Tommy’s return to his family could be for other than benign reasons.  He suggested that the reunion may have initially occurred for Tommy “to wreak vengeance.  Tommy’s embrace of Uncle Ernie is immensely cruel.  …You think, ‘What’s he up to?  He’s obviously about to embark on retribution.”  But he snaps out of it.  “He ends up accepting who he is, what he is, what he’s been through.  And (he accepts) the people around him.”

Other adjustments drew additional criticism, including the insertion of the line freedom tastes of normality (as opposed to the original freedom tastes of reality) in I’m Free, and the removal of many religious references.  For example, the ‘kids’ rather than ‘disciples’ lead Tommy in in Pinball Wizard, and the revised Amazing Journey disposes of the mysticism of the original.  The ‘tall stranger’ with ‘silver sparkled glittering gown whose golden beard flows nearly down to the ground’ is removed, replaced with a description of Tommy himself.  Another target for those who complained that the Broadway Tommy was too soft was the Acid Queen sequence:  Tommy’s father whisks him away before she has a chance to begin her peculiar brand of therapy.

“It was clear I couldn’t compete with the acid trip someone had when they first listened to the album,” McAnuff told the Washington Post’s Lisa Leff in December, 1994.  “All I could do was carry out Pete’s vision and my own vision of the piece.  There was really no other choice.  I knew we would take some lumps from people who had a very strong personal relationship with Tommy.  But as it turns out there has been far less of that than I ever would have expected.”

To facilitate the parental decision-making which must have taken place between Tommy Can You Hear Me and Smash The Mirror, Pete wrote a new song, I Believe My Own Eyes.  The song was “…a conventional music-theatre number in many respects,” Pete wrote in 1993.

"…It has a job to do.  It has to suggest the passing of time and patience and must strengthen the audience’s feeling that the parents are exhausted but still young enough at heart to hope for their relationship.  It also must keep the audience’s focus on the mirror, about to be smashed by the mother.  And it has to attend to the idea that when there are no answers we have to look inside.

There was one other, less specific, part of the brief – and that was that we wanted a ballad, something like Behind Blue Eyes from the Who.  I trawled all these elements together and came up with the song.  By doing so, I surprised myself and everyone else.  It is not as popular a song in the show as I had hoped, but it is vital and it works.  It is the one piece of new writing I have done for the show that makes me feel I can really write music drama in the future."

“Tommy is a spiritual journey,” Townshend said, explaining that Tommy’s disabilities are metaphors for the deafness, muteness and blindness “that we live in as far as spiritual matters are concerned…We’re super-efficient intellectually, super-efficient physically, super-efficient in all kinds of ways, but spiritually we’re driving blind.  We don’t know when we’re making progress and when we’re not.”

Once Pete and Des had hashed out their onstage rendition of Tommy with “a fair bit of detail” according to McAnuff, the work began for the La Jolla Playhouse staff to bring the work to life.  In addition to its 24 actors, the show would feature nine rear-projection screens to aid in visual presentation (this number increased to eighteen when the show went to Broadway), a nearly full-size airplane out of which actors ‘parachuted’, a huge pinball machine (one of nine custom-built machines used in the show), dozens of television monitors which showed footage filmed live from the stage, and eight tons of scenery.  On average, costume changes took place every three minutes, as cast members donned one of over 1,000 costumes which were made for the show, one of which was a $3,000 white leather jacket.

Pete’s involvement with the adaptation of Tommy’s music to the stage show was seemingly not as extensive as one might imagine of the man who composed the original piece.  He reportedly wasn’t involved in choosing the seven-member band (two guitarists, bass, French horn, drums, two keyboards), nor did he meet them until two weeks prior to the show’s premiere July 9th.

Tommy onstage proved a huge success, enjoying a Broadway run of more than two years.

“I wasn’t surprised, when I first saw it, as much as I was relieved,” Pete told the San Jose Mercury News in July 1994 of his reaction to the first show.  “I thought, finally someone has done what they said they would do.  I had worked with a number of people in the past… but Des made good on his promises.”

[1] “Considering his total isolation in most of the story, how were we to find an emotional throughline for the character of Tommy?”, McAnuff told the Washington Post’s Lisa Leff in 1994.  “The basic conflict in the story , we agreed, was between Tommy and Tommy.  This gave birth to the idea of the multiple Tommys (i.e., Tommy at 4, Tommy at 10 and the adult Tommy – our narrator).  It was the interaction between these characters that created the magical layer which led to many of the most exotic visual elements in the production.”

Background Notes by Mark Wilkerson.




Original Cast Recording produced by George Martin


Pinball Machine



Pete Townshend's music projects and the stage productions based on his legendary studio albums are ground breaking and revolutionary.

The following pages for the stage productions and recordings of Tommy, Quadrophenia, The Iron Man, and Psychoderelict contain extensive background notes, quotes from Pete taken from various interviews, press articles, reviews, production information, awards, cast and production crew listings, tour dates, story synopsis, recording information, photos, videos, and a whole lot more!

We also take an in-depth look at Pete’s work with orchestration, electronic music, and his ground breaking Lifehouse Method project.

Read all about these landmark projects!

Tommy square
Lifehouse Method
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