Electrifying rock musical Tommy starts previews Original Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff returns

May 3, 2013… Twenty years after its Broadway première, Tommy returns to the stage in a new production helmed by its co-creator and original director, Des McAnuff. The spectacular musical that swept the Tony Awards in 1993 starts previews on Saturday, May 4, at the Avon Theatre.
 
The third rock musical produced by the Festival in recent years, Tommy will be the biggest musical ever staged at Stratford. A technical marvel, the show will feature massive LED screens and extraordinary automated set pieces that light up, explode, spin and tilt.
 
“Working on a show like Tommy is a revelation of just how far we have come in such a short time in this digital age,” says Mr. McAnuff, who was invested into the Order of Canada earlier today. “We are able to do things visually and in sound that we could never have dreamed of before. We have done our very best to rethink the visual storytelling while at the same time being careful to maintain the integrity of the story we all believe in so passionately.”
 
Created by The Who’s Pete Townshend and Mr. McAnuff, this is the story of a young man who loses his sight, hearing and speech upon witnessing a traumatic act of violence as a child. When he reveals an uncanny talent for the game of pinball, however, he finds himself at the centre of a celebrity cult.
 
“Tommy is, for my generation, one of the most powerful, iconic characters and he has had a profound influence on pop culture,” says Mr. McAnuff.
 
One look at his incredible track record and the same could be said of Mr. McAnuff himself. He is widely regarded as the top director of rock musicals. His production of Jersey Boys, for instance, is a global phenomenon. As the Festival’s Artistic Director from 2008 to 2012, he has thrilled Stratford audiences with his previous productions, including 2011’s enormous hit Jesus Christ Superstar, which moved on to successful runs in La Jolla, California, and on Broadway.
 
“Audiences have been eagerly awaiting Des’s next production, and I could not be more delighted to have him back at the Festival to bring his beloved Tommy back to life,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “This is not just another directing job; this is a labour of love.
 
“In a season that balances a rich variety of dramatic works, Tommy is going to be not only a complementary experience but also a major theatrical event. Des at the helm, along with an incredibly talented cast and artistic team, makes for a magical combination – one that will surely make this show one of the season’s biggest hits and a truly unforgettable trip to the theatre.”
 
With music and lyrics by Pete Townshend, additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon, and book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff, the ground-breaking musical was originally produced on Broadway by Pace Theatrical Group and Dodger Productions with Kardana Productions. Based on The Who’s 1969 concept album Tommy, the production features such unforgettable hits as “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” “Acid Queen” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
 
The title role will be played by Robert Markus alongside Jewelle Blackman as the Gypsy, Kira Guloien as Mrs. Walker, Jeremy Kushnier as Captain Walker, Paul Nolan as Cousin Kevin and Steve Ross as Uncle Ernie.
 
Stratford’s production reunites key members of the original Tony-Award winning team including Choreographer Wayne Cilento and Set Designer John Arnone, along with Tony Award-nominated Costume Designer David C. Woolard. Joining them are Musical Director and Supervisor Rick Fox, Lighting Designer Howell Binkley, Sound Designer Andrew Keister, Projection Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis and Fight Director Steve Rankin.
 
Tommy Forum Highlights
 
The Forum, the new festival within the Festival, is a series of activities and events designed to make a visit to Stratford an immersive, all-encompassing cultural experience. Through debates, talks, concerts, comedy nights, hands-on workshops and more, The Forum will offer theatregoers more ways to discover and examine the themes running through this season’s productions.
 
Tommy will be explored through several Forum events, including: Tommy Guitar School, in which guests are invited to bring their electric guitars and learn riffs from the rock-n’-roll score; Disability, Disillusion and Self-Discovery, an address byStephen Lewis, Board Chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation; and The Insight of Blindness, in which Alex Bulmer, a Canadian-born writer and theatre artist, shares her experience creating disabled-led art after losing her sight.
 
Support for the inaugural season of The Forum is generously provided by Kelly and Michael Meighen and the Province of Ontario, in partnership with the University of Waterloo, with media sponsorship provided by The Walrus. Support for the Speakers Series is generously provided in memory of Dr. Philip Hayman.
 
Tommy officially opens on May 30 and runs until October 19. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.
 
Tommy is sponsored by Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Production support is generously provided by Richard Rooney & Laura Dinner and by the Ontario government.
 
Support for the 2013 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham Family.
 
Stratford Direct, the new daily return private bus service between Toronto and Stratford, began May 1. Departing once daily from May 1 to 25 and October 1 to 20 and twice daily from May 27 to September 29 (on performance days only), the round trip costs only $20.
 
Support for Stratford Direct is generously provided by The Peter Cundill Foundation.
 
The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and JulietFiddler on the RoofThe Three MusketeersThe Merchant of VeniceTommyBlithe SpiritOthelloMeasure for MeasureMary StuartWaiting for Godot and two new Canadian plays, Taking Shakespeare and The Thrill, along with more than 150 Forum events.
 
Cast (in alphabetical order)
Local Lad……………………………………            Matt Alfano
Pinball Lad #1……………………………….            Gabriel Antonacci
Pinball Lad #2……………………………….            Matthew Armet
Ten-year-old Tommy………………………..            Conor Bergauer
The Gypsy…………………………………..             Jewelle Blackman
Specialist…………………………………….            Matthew G. Brown
Ten-year-old Tommy………………………..            Joshua Buchwald
Local Lad……………………………………            Stephen Cota
Four-year-old Tommy……………………….            Arden Couturier
Four-year-old Tommy……………………….            Adrienne Enns
Mrs. Walker…………………………………            Kira Guloien
Harmonica Player/Lover…………………….            Sean Alexander Hauk
Minister………………………………………            Larry Herbert
Specialist’s Assistant………………………..            Keely Hutton
Mrs. Simpson………………………………..            Robin Hutton
Swing………………………………………..            Galen Johnson
Kevin’s Mother………………………………            Julia Juhas
Captain Walker………………………………            Jeremy Kushnier
Swing………………………………………..            Krista Leis
Minister’s Wife………………………………            Monique Lund
Tommy………………………………………            Robert Markus           
Local Lad……………………………………            Nicholas Nesbitt
Cousin Kevin…………………………………           Paul Nolan
Local Lass…………………………………….           Laurin Padolina
Local Lass……………………………………           Katrina Reynolds
Sally Simpson……………………………….            Jennifer Rider-Shaw
Uncle Ernie………………………………….            Steve Ross
Local Lad……………………………………            Julius Sermonia
Hawker/Judge……………………………….            Lee Siegel
Understudy…………………………………..           Jennifer Stewart
           
Artistic Credits
Director………………………………………           Des McAnuff
Choreographer……………………………….           Wayne Cilento
Musical Direction and Supervision………….            Rick Fox
Set Designer…………………………………            John Arnone
Costume Designer……………………………            David C. Woolard
Lighting Designer……………………………            Howell Binkley
Sound Designer………………………………           Andrew Keister
Projection Designer………………………….            Sean Nieuwenhuis
Creative Consultant………………………….           Lisa Portes
Musical Staging Consultant…………………            Tracey Langran Corea
Fight Director……………………………….            Steve Rankin
Dramaturge………………………………….            Chad Sylvian
Associate Musical Director…………………             Marek Norman
Associate Conductor………………………..            Laura Burton
Producer…………………………………….             David Auster
Casting Director…………………………….             Beth Russell
Creative Planning Director………………….            Jason Miller
Assistant Director……………………………            Lee Wilson
Assistant Choreographer…………………….            Julius Sermonia
Assistant Set Designer………………………            Devon Bhim
Assistant Costume Designer………………..             Jenna McCutchen
Assistant Lighting Designers………………..            Kaileigh Krysztofiak, Jareth Li
Assistant Sound Designer……………………            Michael Bogden
Assistant Projection Designer……………….            T. Erin Gruber
Choreography Assistant……………………..            Laurin Padolina
Dance Captains………………………………           Krista Leis, Julius Sermonia
Fight Captain…………………………………           Julius Sermonia
Stage Manager……………………………….           Brian Scott
Assistant Stage Managers……………………           Meghan Callan, Melissa Rood
Production Assistant…………………………           Katie Honek
Production Stage Manager…………………..           Julie Miles
Technical Director……………………………            Elissa Horscroft
 
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PHOTOGRAPHY:
Promotional photos for Tommy:
 
Headshots:
 
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