The Who's Tommy
Music and lyrics by Pete Townshend
Book by Pete Townshend & Des McAnuff
Thingamajig Theatre Company, 2019
Director/Choreographer: Pia Wyatt
Music Director: Boni McIntyre
Set Designers: Jill Fives and Laura Moore
Costume Designer: Nanette Cheffers
Sound Designer: Michaela Pietrinferno
Projections/Video Designer: Brian Freeland
Lighting Designer: Elaine Wong
Scenic Artist: Jill Fives
Production Stage Manager: Samantha Rohr
Photography by Jeff Laydon and Elaine Wong.
This production was performed in repertory with a shared lighting plot with Alice in Wonderland Jr.
Tommy is a rock musical that examines a wide range of topics from trauma, neglect, and family dynamics to celebrity and media oversaturation. Captain Walker, presumed lost in action during World War II, eventually makes it back to his home and wife in London. However, she has since moved on and is raising their young son Tommy with her new Lover. Irate, Walker shoots the Lover, and Tommy witnesses the murder happen in the reflection of the mirror, becoming trapped within his own reflection of PTSD. As time passes, the Walkers are increasingly less able to protect the boy, and he suffers further abuses at the hands of his Uncle Ernie, Cousin Kevin, and the local neighbourhood bullies. Through chance, it is discovered that he can emerge from his catatonic state in front of a pinball machine -- in fact, he is a pinball genius. Tommy's celebrity soars and he develops his own cult following and mania. He realizes fame can be a struggle, with the cut-throat way in which the crowd turns on him when he doesn't provide any easy answers to their lives. Tommy is able to find redemption through the forgiveness of his family and his followers, encouraging them not to emulate his own behaviour, but rather be good people in their own right.
Without the budget to recreate a working pyrotechnic pinball machine, the design premise of this production sought to make the entire stage a giant pinball machine that roared to life when Tommy activated its bumpers and bells. The lighting featured LED tape hidden amongst the structures of the set that Tommy activated as he walked across it. Combined with Brian Freeland's projection and live video design, the sensationalism of Tommy's celebrity status was made larger than life.