The updated musical production of The Who’s Tommy wrapped up a successful Summer run at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre yesterday, August 6.
The show was directed by Des McAnuff, who worked on the Tony Award winning Broadway musical of Tommy in 1993. Des created a modern rendition of the story to mark the 30th anniversary of the original production. Tommy ran from June 13 to August 6, 2023 in Chicago, and was extended twice due to high ticket demand.
Pete Townshend and his wife Rachel attended the final shows over the weekend, accompanied by Des McAnuff. At the end of matinee and evening shows on Saturday, Pete and Des joined the cast onstage to give their heartfelt thanks to the production company and audiences.
Pete told the crowd at the Saturday matinee performance: "This is the first time I have seen the show. I was meant to see it when it opened, and a famous British airline cancelled my flight. It’s overwhelming, it’s really overwhelming. I know that you are all one audience, but this has enjoyed such a successful run. A short run, but a very successful run with incredible support. And Chicago, I have to say, this is really true, I really love this city. When I was last in this hall, I was sitting out there somewhere, in 1994 I think, watching the show Chicago. And I never expected or imagined that anything like this could ever happen to Tommy, or to me. Des has done the most incredible job, and what a fabulous company of singers. And most of all, with a piece like this, I thought the band were just spectacular."
This musical production of Tommy has received critical praise and stellar reviews from fans and critics who attended the shows.
Rumours have been swirling around about taking this show to Broadway, or more regional theatres, but so far nothing official has been announced. With the huge success of this Chicago production, fingers crossed more shows will be coming soon!
Congratulations to Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff for this wonderful new production of Tommy!
Many thanks to everyone who contributed reviews of the show, and to Stuart Haber for all his fabulous photos taken at the Goodman last Saturday.
Matinee show, Saturday, August 5
Evening show, Saturday, August 5
Here are a few reviews from fans who attended the Tommy shows at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
Review by Stuart Haber
Tommy at Goodman theater, August 5 evening performance. It has been nearly 30 years since I saw Tommy on Broadway and had looked forward to its return to New York City, but COVID-19 put that off. I took the opportunity to see this current production in Chicago.
We sat in second row center seats, which were totally great as we were waiting for the show to begin. There was a sudden applause and cheers in the audience. I turned, and there was Pete Townshend, Des McAnuff, and Rachel Fuller being seated. It was absolutely exhilarating to experience this and be in Pete’s presence.
And now the musical:
There was a really cool and fantastic use of projections and scrims that helped put the story forward. Starting with World War II soldiers to the falsely assumed death of Captain Walker, we see Tommy from infancy on. And then there was that scene: the killing of his mother’s lover and Tommy’s loss of senses afterward. We see various characters such as uncle Ernie, The Acid Queen, the doctor and cousin Kevin, and then Tommy’s pension for pinball.
The parables of life are self evident: trauma, somatization, exploitation, deception, and ultimately resilience, a breakthrough, insight and freedom.
And the music. I cannot stress enough how brilliant and gorgeous the songs from Tommy sound 54 years after the album had been released! Yeah, there is some rushing of the plot and parts of the story seem compressed, but they are telling a story of many years of life into a single evening so you accept the imperfections. And it is the music and the staging, the projections (particularly of Ali Bourzgui who plays Tommy), that convey the emotions.
At many moments, I found myself teary-eyed: the intrinsic power of the music and the words moved me.
The audience was electrified at times, applauding and even standing before the end of the show!
And after the final curtain, after we applauded the entire cast, Pete And Des got on the stage to talk to us. And it was a mindfuck to see them. They are both so proud of the cast and the production and Pete reminisced on his creation of Tommy all those years ago.
I hope Tommy does come to Broadway again. As with any show, there is some tweaks that can be done: you can ask Des to contact me on that (haha). All in all a great experience of a timeless masterpiece.
Review by Teresa McCulloch
My husband, Kevin, and I saw the Tommy production on Friday August 4 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
Throughout the years I have listened to the music of Tommy, and, like most other fans, I have envisioned in my own mind what that story looks and feels like. However, to see the interpretation in a theater setting; the words, the sounds, the facial expressions of each actor, while simultaneously listening to the music and vocals, uncovered so many more emotions than I could have imagined.
In the end, I felt like Tommy came full circle. The music, the set, the production brought it all together for me. Pete’s brilliant mind and musical talent is beyond incredible. And to think he wrote Tommy so early in his career. It’s almost as if he wrote Tommy with the intentions of it becoming a Broadway Musical someday.
I look forward to this version of Tommy becoming a Broadway production - we’ll be there to see it when that happens!
Review by Debbie Bruns
Seeing the production of Tommy at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago on June 30th was amazing on multiple levels.
I've seen the movie (many, many times) and saw the show on Broadway (actually during reviews and Pete was in the audience). I know every word to every song as many of you on this page do, but my connection to it has only grown stronger and deeper in the past 20 years as my husband and I gave our son the middle name of Thomas (thanks Bill for agreeing to that back in 2001). I have also been involved in special education as a teacher and, for the past 20 years, as a university faculty member preparing future special education teachers. Tommy withdrawing into himself always fascinated me in terms of understanding individuals with autism and, now, relative to the growing focus on the impact of trauma on a child's development.
Back to me seeing the show...I went with Bill and my young adult children. The latter have heard about Tommy (and The Who) for years, which should come as no surprise. They were glued to the action and moving to the music, how can you not, the entire time while their mom sang along. It was an amazing shared experience and for them to learn more about me and give them the opportunity to experience something truly wonderful.
The cast was first rate, huge shout out to Ali Bourzgui and the young Tommys. Their performances brought a new depth to the character. It was exciting to see the interactions among them (which wasn't part of the Broadway version). The rendering of the adult Tommy was intricate and also heartfelt. His metamorphosis and the power of the songs in the second half definitely hit on current themes.
The updates to the lighting and tech was first rate. It was spellbinding actually. And, of course, the orchestra was powerful and literally hit all the notes, every one. Hearing some of my most favorite Who songs in this way took me back to when I first heard the Tommy LP and hearing it on the Who Hits Back tour emphasizes how Tommy is a masterwork.