From Concept to Broadway
No doubt, especially since The Who has again recently made headlines for their Super Bowl halftime appearance, you are aware that the rock group has influenced music since the 1960's. Among their many accomplishments are two concept albums, Tommy and Quadrophenia. Both were produced with the idea of eventual evolution into fully staged rock operas. To date, only Tommy has accomplished that goal. The Tommy double album was introduced at a concert given by the band who then played a great deal of it at once. Fans embraced it immediately, though not necessarily because they understood the complex, detailed story, but rather because the music style fit nicely with the rest of The Who's catalogue.
The Who's Tommy
Began previews on March 29, 1993
Opening Night was April 22, 1993
Closing Night was June 17, 1995
The Who's Tommy was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It won 5: Best Score (in a tie with Kander and Ebb's Kiss of the Spider Woman), Best Scenic Design, Best Lighting, Best Choreography and Best Direction. The awards were not won without controversy. Shortly after that tie for Best Score, the Tony committee began its long process of debate over scores written specifically for theatre - a debate which, a few years later became the rule as producers of The Lion King, Mary Poppins and a variety of other shows found out. Some would make the cut, others would not. But Tommy really started that ball rolling. And more than a few pundits cried foul when McAnuff bested Harold Prince (Kiss of the Spider Woman) for Best Director. A semi-feud/competition grew between the two shows as they both ran. In fact, they both announced closing notices within hours of each other, and then Kiss extended "by popular demand" in order to out run Tommy by a mere 5 performances, closing on July 1 after 904 shows.
As we will see in later blogs in this series, The Who's Tommy turned out to be ground-breaking for more than changing the Tony rules for Best Score. Scenic elements that are common place today got their start in the show, the creatives have gone on to illustrious careers, and the cast boasts MANY of today's Broadway stars, who then were just starting out.
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