1996 West End
The Who's Tommy the Musical - PLOT SYNOPSIS
An opening montage of London is presented, beginning in 1940 with the initial meeting and then marriage of the Walkers. Amidst World War II, the husband, Captain Walker, parachutes into Germany, where he is captured as a prisoner of war by the Nazis. Back in London at 22 Heathfield Gardens, the captain's brother Ernie delivers a care package to the pregnant Mrs Walker just as two officers arrive at the home to announce the disappearance and presumed death of her husband ("Captain Walker").
The following year, two nurses gently hand Mrs Walker her newborn son, Tommy; later, in 1945, American troops liberate Captain Walker's POW camp, proclaiming the end of the war ("It's a Boy" / "We've Won"). Mrs Walker has since attained a new lover, and they celebrate her twenty-first birthday and discuss marriage together with four-year-old Tommy ("Twenty-One"). To their surprise, Captain Walker enters the house and a fight erupts between Captain Walker and the boyfriend. Mrs Walker turns Tommy away, but he watches his father shoot the boyfriend to death through a large mirror. Captain and Mrs Walker embrace but soon realise what Tommy has witnessed, and violently shake him, telling him he did not see or hear anything ("What About the Boy"). The police arrive; Tommy simply gazes at the mirror in silence. A narrator—Tommy's older self—appears to the audience, introducing and framing the story of his exceptional childhood ("Amazing Journey").
Captain Walker is tried for murder but found not guilty by reasons of self-defense. However, Tommy fails to celebrate his father's release, and his family quickly realizes that he has apparently gone deaf, mute, and blind. Tommy's parents have him undergo a battery of medical tests, to no avail ("Sparks"). At ten years of age, Tommy's unresponsive state remains unchanged ("Amazing Journey (Reprise)"). The Walkers all go to church and host a Christmas family dinner, though the family is unnerved that Tommy does not know that it is Christmas or understand its significance ("Christmas"). Everyone is stunned when Tommy responds only to his uncle Ernie's playing the French horn. Mr Walker, in a desperate attempt to reach his son, shouts "Tommy, can you hear me?" multiple times. Older Tommy, only visible to young Tommy, who persistently stares at the mirror, sings to him ("See Me, Feel Me").
The Walkers leave Tommy with a slew of vicious babysitters, including alcoholic and sexually abusive Uncle Ernie ("Do You Think It's Alright?" and "Fiddle About"), as well as his cousin Kevin, a sadistic bully ("Cousin Kevin"). Cousin Kevin and his friends take Tommy to a youth club where, to everyone's astonishment, Tommy plays pinball brilliantly ("Sensation"). Meanwhile, another doctor, a psychiatrist, tests Tommy yet again with no success ("Sparks – Reprise"). The desperate Captain Walker is approached by The Hawker and Harmonica Player ("Eyesight to the Blind") who promise a miraculous cure for Tommy. They take young Tommy to the Isle of Dogs to find a prostitute called The Gypsy, who tries to convince Captain Walker to let her spend time alone with Tommy, introducing him to drugs ("The Acid Queen"). Horrified by her methods, Captain Walker snatches Tommy away. By 1958, Tommy has apparently become a pinball-playing expert as Cousin Kevin and a group of adolescents await 17-year-old Tommy's appearance at the amusement arcade, where his rise to local popularity has begun ("Pinball Wizard").
By 1960, Tommy has become the local pinball champion and hero of the neighborhood lads ("Underture"). Captain Walker persists unsuccessfully in seeking doctors and a cure for Tommy ("There's a Doctor" and "Go to the Mirror!"). One doctor discovers that Tommy's senses do function but not at a self-aware or openly expressive level. On the street, a group of local louts surround Tommy ("Tommy, Can You Hear Me?") and carry him home. The Walkers, at their wits' end, passionately confront each other in an effort to reconcile and face the reality that Tommy might never be cured ("I Believe My Own Eyes"). Captain Walker leaves Mrs. Walker with Tommy. Tommy stares into the mirror blankly as his mother tries desperately to reach him one last time, before smashing the mirror in a rage ("Smash the Mirror"). With the mirror in pieces, Tommy suddenly becomes fully lucid and interactive for the first time since the age of four, and he leaves home ("I'm Free"). Through 1961 to 1963, news of Tommy's miraculous regaining of full consciousness receives huge media attention ("Miracle Cure"), Tommy is idolized by the public and the press ("Sensation – Reprise"), and he begins appearing in packed stadiums, playing pinball with a helmet that temporarily blinds and deafens him ("Pinball Wizard – Reprise"). Uncle Ernie tries to capitalise on Tommy's newfound stardom, by selling cheap souvenirs for a grand opening party of Tommy's new holiday camp, resulting from Tommy's cult-like following ("Tommy's Holiday Camp"). That night, an adolescent fan named Sally Simpson falls from the stage in her eagerness to touch Tommy and is pummeled by guards ("Sally Simpson"). Tommy, in horror, stops the show and tends to Sally. He says he has had enough and decides to go home.
Realizing how caught up in celebrity he has become, Tommy wishes to do something in return for his fans and invites them all back to his house ("Welcome"). Once there, the population of fans keeps growing, though Tommy generously, but naïvely, wishes to welcome everyone equally. Sally then asks Tommy how she can be more like him and less like herself ("Sally Simpson's Question"). He is confused, and insists that there is no reason for anyone to be like him, when everyone else already possesses the amazing gifts that he was deprived of most of his life. He suddenly realises that he had thought his fame came from his miraculous recovery, when it in fact arose due to his fans desire for a spiritual leader, hoping he could communicate wisdom from his experience of not being able to hear, see, or talk for so long. Now, disenchanted with their hero for failing to provide the answers they wanted to be told to them, the crowd turns on him in anger and eventually leaves ("We're Not Gonna Take It"), leaving Tommy with just his family surrounding him. Tommy hears the voice of his ten-year-old self from the mirror ("See Me, Feel Me") and for a moment, to the horror of his family, seems to be reverting to his old state. Instead, he turns to his family, whom he has ignored during his stardom, and embraces them in acceptance, before he climatically reunites with his younger selves onstage ("Listening to You/Finale").
Album Songs: The Who's Tommy the Musical Songs Lyrics
Synopsis to The Who's Tommy the Musical