Everything you need to know about 'The Who's Tommy' on Broadway

See, feel, and hear the first revival of the multi-Tony Award-winning musical featuring iconic music from The Who's 1969 concept album of the same name.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

He’s a pinball wizard! In The Who’s Tommy on Broadway, that’s who young Tommy Walker becomes after a violent incident compels him to disconnect from the world and sends him on an odyssey of self-discovery and celebrity.

Broadway newcomer Ali Louis Bourzgui stars as Tommy in this revival of the show created by musician Pete Townshend and director Des McAnuff. First seen in the early 1990s, the musical is famous for songs like “See Me, Feel Me,” “I’m Free,” and “Pinball Wizard” and is based on The Who's 1969 concept album and the 1975 movie version.

“Tommy’s saga delivers a pointed and potent take on trauma, fame, and individuality that resonates and speaks directly to today,” New York Theatre Guide’s The Who’s Tommy review reads. So see it and feel it for yourself. Before you do, read more about the acclaimed show before you rock out at the Nederlander Theatre.

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What is The Who’s Tommy about?

The Who’s Tommy is a rock opera that follows the life of Tommy Walker, who loses his sense of sight, speech, and hearing and becomes a pinball prodigy and a cult-like spiritual leader.

Through iconic rock songs like “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me, Feel Me,” the surreal narrative navigates Tommy’s quest for acceptance and enlightenment.

Where is The Who’s Tommy playing?

The Who’s Tommy is at the Nederlander Theatre, located at 208 W. 41st St. between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Built by Walter C. Jordan, the Nederlander Theatre building was originally constructed as a carpenter’s shop in 1920. In 1980, it was renamed after David T. Nederlander, the founder of the organization that owns the building.

Plays and musicals that have recently run at 1,235-seat theatre include Shucked, A Christmas Carol, Mr. Saturday Night, and The Lehman Trilogy.

How long is The Who’s Tommy?

The Who’s Tommy runs approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission. This is a typical running time for a Broadway musical.

What days is The Who’s Tommy playing?

The Who’s Tommy plays Tuesday through Sunday, with two performances on Wednesdays and Saturdays and no performances on Mondays.

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When did The Who’s Tommy premiere?

The Who’s Tommy musical premiered on Broadway in 1993, nearly a quarter-century after the release of the concept album by the British rock band The Who. Check out Tommy's full timeline below.

  • 1969: The Who releases Tommy, a concept album that follows Tommy Walker’s trauma-induced sensory deprivation to pinball stardom and spiritual enlightenment.
  • 1975: The Who’s Tommy film adaptation is released. It was directed by Ken Russell and starred Roger Daltrey in the title role alongside Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Elton John, and Tina Turner. The film dives into themes of family dysfunction, celebrity culture, and the search for identity.
  • 1992: The Who’s Tommy, co-written by The Who’s Pete Townshend and the show’s director Des McAnuff, debuts at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego.
  • 1993: The Who’s Tommy musical premieres on Broadway at the St. James Theatre. It ran for 899 performances.
  • 2023: The Who’s Tommy ran at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in advance of a Broadway run. The show’s revamped book expanded the timeline of the story to include the near future.
  • 2024: The first Broadway revival of The Who’s Tommy musical begins performances in March at the Nederlander Theatre.

Who wrote The Who’s Tommy?

The Who’s Tommy musical features a book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff, who directed the show in 1993 and the current Broadway revival that began in Chicago. Townshend is the co-founder, guitarist, and vocalist of the English rock band The Who. McAnuff is known for his Tony-winning stagings of Jersey Boys and the original Broadway production of The Who’s Tommy.

The music and lyrics are by Townshend, acclaimed for his innovative guitar playing style and prolific songwriting contributions to The Who’s extensive discography and his extensive solo work.

The Who’s Tommy characters

In addition to Tommy Walker, who appears in three stages of his life, characters in the musical include Tommy’s family, physicians, followers, and others. Here are all the show's major characters.

  • Tommy: A traumatized boy who suffers sensory deprivation and goes on a journey of self-discovery. Different actors play him at ages 4, 10, and as an adult.
  • Mrs. Walker: Tommy’s mother, who grapples with the fallout of her son’s trauma.
  • Captain Walker: Tommy’s father, whose return from war trigger’s the boy’s sensory deprivation.
  • Uncle Ernie: Tommy’s lecherous and opportunistic uncle.
  • Cousin Kevin: Tommy’s abusive cousin who unwittingly discovers Tommy's pinball talent.
  • Acid Queen: A seductive figure Tommy encounters during his journey.

Who is in the cast of The Who’s Tommy on Broadway?

The cast of the 2024 Broadway revival of The Who’s Tommy features Broadway newcomers and seasoned performers. Many reprise their roles from the Chicago run.

Ali Louis Bourzgui makes his Broadway debut as the adult Tommy opposite Alison Luff (Waitress) as Mrs. Walker, Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) as Captain Walker, Bobby Conte (Company) as Cousin Kevin, and John Ambrosino as Uncle Ernie, Christina Sajous as The Acid Queen, and Haley Gustafson as Sally Simpson.

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The Who’s Tommy songs

The songs in The Who’s Tommy musical feature lyrics and music by Pete Townshend, with a few exceptions. Townshend’s Tony Award-winning score blends rock, pop, and orchestral styles. Here are all the songs in the show, several of which are reprised for dramatic emphasis.

Act 1

  • “1941”
  • “Captain Walker”
  • “It's a Boy”
  • “We've Won”
  • “Twenty-One”
  • “Amazing Journey”
  • “Sparks”
  • “Christmas”
  • “See Me, Feel Me”
  • “Do You Think It's Alright”
  • “Fiddle About”
  • “Cousin Kevin”
  • “Sensation”
  • “Eyesight to the Blind”
  • “Acid Queen”
  • “Pinball Wizard”

Act 2

  • Entr’acte
  • “There’s a Doctor”
  • “Go to the Mirror”
  • “Listening to You”
  • “Tommy, Can You Hear Me”
  • “I Believe My Own Eyes”
  • “Smash the Mirror”
  • “I’m Free”
  • “Miracle Cure
  • “Sally Simpson”
  • “Welcome”
  • “Sally's Question”
  • “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
  • Finale: “See Me, Feel Me”/Listening to You”

What awards has The Who’s Tommy musical won?

The new Broadway adaptation of The Who’s Tommy has not yet won any awards, but it is eligible for this season’s upcoming awards. The show is currently nominated for six Outer Critics Circle awards, including Outstanding Musical Revival, Outstanding Lead Performer (for Bourzgui), and Outstanding Choreography (for Lorin Latarro). The show is up for two Drama League Awards: Best Musical Revival and a performance award for Bourzgui.

The critically acclaimed 2023 Chicago revival of The Who’s Tommy earned nine Jeff Awards, including for Best Musical, Direction (for McAnuff), Principal Performer for Bourzgui, and Choreography for Latarro.

Here are all the major accolades the movie and musical have won and been nominated for in the past.

  • In 1993, The Who’s Tommy won Tony Awards for its score, set, lighting, choreography, and direction. It was also nominated for Best Musical, Book, Featured Actor and Actress, and Costume Design. The production won a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.
  • For her role as Mrs. Walker in the 1975 film, Ann-Margret won a Golden Globe and was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award. Pete Townshend was up for an Oscar for his score for the movie.

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Celebrities who have starred in The Who’s Tommy

The rock opera’s juicy roles are a magnet for talented actors who’ve rocked out on stage and screen. Learn more about the most notable star turns below.

  • Michael Cerveris: Cerveris originated the title role on Broadway in 1993 and earned his first of six Tony nominations. He later won for Assassins and Fun Home. He played Tommy again in 1995 in Frankfurt.
  • Tina Turner: The rock and roll legend made her movie debut as the Acid Queen in the 1975 Tommy film.
  • Elton John: John played the Pinball Wizard in the film and, nearly 50 years later, inspired a line of pinball machines.
  • Roger Bart: Bart played Cousin Kevin in the 1993 U.S. national tour and a 1995 run in Frankfort. Bart, now in Back to the Future: The Musical, later won a Tony for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and was nominated for The Producers.
  • Christian Borle: Borle played Captain Walker in a 2019 production of The Who’s Tommy in Washington, D.C. By then, he’d won Tonys for Peter and the Starcatcher and Something Rotten!
  • Paul Alexander Nolan: Nolan played Cousin Kevin in a 2019 Stratford Festival run of The Who’s Tommy. A Tony nominee for Bright Star, Nolan currently appears in Water for Elephants on Broadway.
  • Sherie Rene Scott: Scott played Sally Simpson in the 1993 Broadway run. She now has three Tony nominations to her credit.
  • Russell Harvard: Harvard, a Deaf actor known for roles in Tribes and Spring Awakening, played Tommy in a 2016 production in Washington, D.C., communicating in American Sign Language.

Onscreen adaptations of The Who’s Tommy

This musical hasn’t received a screen adaptation — it's the other way around. The Who’s Tommy musical is based on the 1969 concept album Tommy, which became a movie six years later with the same title starring Roger Daltry and directed by Ken Russell. The story later got the musical treatment in 1993.

Fun facts about The Who’s Tommy

  • In addition to directing both Broadway productions of The Who’s Tommy, McAnuff also staged both pre-Broadway productions (in La Jolla and Chicago, respectively) as well as a Canadian production in 2013.
  • The Who’s Tommy marked a Broadway milestone for the fusion of rock music and musical theatre.
  • Des McAnuff first heard the concept album at age 17 in 1969. Imagery in the Broadway revival “comes from that very first listening,” he told New York Theatre Guide.
  • Beyond the musical, “Pinball Wizard” has notably been performed by The Brady Bunch star Barry Williams and the comedy rock group Tenacious D, which consists of Jack Black and Kyle Gass.

Get tickets to The Who’s Tommy on Broadway

See me, feel me! The Who’s Tommy musical rocks out as an experience for the senses.

Get The Who's Tommy tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

Photo credit: The Who's Tommy on Broadway. (Photos by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

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