Celebrating 50 years since The Who album "Tommy" released
Wonderous Stories will perform the heart-pumping rock opera about Tommy Walker, a deaf, dumb and blind boy who becomes a pinball champion and religious leader.

Courtesy photo

Celebrating 50 years since The Who album "Tommy" released

Story By: LINDA LEUZZI
11/5/2019


“Tommy,” the electrifying album released in 1969 by The Who, will be celebrated by Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts as a 50th anniversary concert on Saturday, November 16.

Wonderous Stories will perform the heart-pumping rock opera about Tommy Walker, a deaf, dumb and blind boy who becomes a pinball champion and religious leader.

“It’s not the first rock opera,” explained PTPA executive director Gary Hygom. “`Sorrow’ by Pretty Things was the first in 1968, but it went nowhere. The Who got recognition for creating rock opera and that genre. At the time, Peter Townshend (The Who’s co-founder and principal songwriter) was known for creating short operatic pieces. The band did the album before the film  (1975), then someone adapted it for a Broadway rock opera (1993).”

Broadway actors Justin Matthew Sargent (“Spiderman,” “Rock of Ages,” “Jesus Christ Superstar”), Michael Wartella (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Tuck Everlasting,” and “Wicked”) and Lana Gordon (“Chicago,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “The Lion King”) will pump up the concert vocally.

Gordon was the hit entertainment at PTPA’s recent cocktail party.

(She sang “All That Jazz.” Woooeeee!)

Gordon will perform “The Acid Queen,” the raucous Pete Townshend song. Others among the album’s iconic melodies are: “Pinball Wizard,” “Smash the Mirror,” “I’m Free,” and “Sensation.”

“There will be more character to the vocals,” Hygom explained. “Lana will act the part (of `Acid Queen,’) and kick the hell out of it.” 

Another Broadway star yet to be announced will join the roster.

Hygom has partnered with Broadway producer Stephen DeAngelis again, who’s known for his PTPA Broadway concert series “He’s not only casting it but he’s directing it,” he said.

Hygom said he tried to obtain rights for a “The Who’s Tommy in Concert” musical, but, “it’s the 25th anniversary of the Broadway show and they’re bringing it back,” he said. (Playbill just announced a new production of “The Who’s Tommy” will open on Broadway in 2021.)

So, instead, this concert will offer the exact lineup of the album’s song list with Broadway stars and Wonderous Stories belting it out. “I reached out to musical director Tommy Williams and he connected me to Wonderous Stories,” Hygom explained.  “I’ve worked with several of the band members and the concert idea started with pulling them on board.” Hygom said there would be 10 musicians.

Wonderous Stories, a kick butt Long Island band, has five core members; Kenny Forgione (guitars, bass vocals), Kevin McCann (guitar, bass), Mark Bonder (keyboard, vocals), Ricky Martinez (drums), Tommy Williams (guitar, bass, vocals, keyboards)

“We expanded the horn section,” Hygom said.

 (Nodding off won’t even be a thought bubble!)

Hygom said New York City rehearsals have been scheduled; the whole show will be rehearsed the full day leading up to the night performance.

“I am hiring a great lighting guy to give it a specific look and feel,” he said. “There’s no scenery or costumes. It’s a true concert with amazing musicians and great vocals. The thing I’m really excited about is creating concerts like this one that people won’t see anywhere else. It’s a one night experience.”

Spoiler alert! A “Tommy” album cover lithograph will be auctioned off that night.