Since then, many people have adapted this story and music to stage and film. This month, the Goodman Theatre brought a new interpretation to Chicago, directed by Des McAnuff.
For the few people unfamiliar with The Who's breakthrough album, it tells the story of Tommy - a boy who becomes deaf, dumb, and blind to repress the experience after witnessing his father's murder of his mother's lover. Tommy inspires a cult following as a young adult when the world learns he has an almost supernatural ability to play pinball.
The official opening is June 23, but I saw a preview performance Friday evening. McAnuff's adaptation sticks closely to the original story, although he altered the ending to create a more sympathetic title character.
The music was great, of course. Updated arrangements kept it familiar but fresh. Listening to these songs was like visiting an old friend after a long time apart and discovering how they had grown over the years.
The minimalist set lit by high-contrast lighting gave the show a futuristic feel. Rectangles - framed by bright neon lights - represented doors, mirrors, and pinball machines.
Three actors played Tommy at various ages and often interacted to represent the character's inward reflection.
Act 1 was flawless. The cast perfectly executed every song, dance, and emotion. While still good, the second act lacked some of the energy prior o intermission.
I do not think I have ever witnessed a show that generated so much excitement from the audience. One could hear cheering mid-song and see fists pumped in time to the beat.
Rumor has it that Townsend will appear at the Goodman one night during the show's run. He was not in attendance Friday, but his spirit was alive.