McAnuff on writing the Tommy musical

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Sat Feb 24 06:35:42 CST 2007

>From an article about Des McAnuff in the Los Angeles Times: 


The Who's Pete Townshend initially told McAnuff through his attorney that he would be minimally involved in the production. But the two ended up spending many hours together working on the show, which went on to win five Tony Awards. 

I got to know him really well, and he clearly in many ways is Tommy. Even though Roger Daltrey played Tommy, there was no question that the principal creator of "Tommy" is Pete Townshend, so he was projecting himself on that little child, and that had to do with his experience growing up after the war. I always saw it as a World War II story, that rock 'n' roll had essentially been born out of the turmoil of World War II. I felt that was what "Tommy" was about. The journey Tommy goes through is the journey Pete went on in terms of coming out of complete obscurity to sudden superstardom. 

We started in November of '91 and were in rehearsal by June of '92, so it was remarkably fast, a high-velocity experience. Pete's an incredible raconteur and as a rock 'n' roll fan steeped in the culture of the British Invasion, I'd have lots of questions about "Tommy." [We'd meet in New York at] the Royalton Hotel, where he used to stay in a suite on the top floor. It had this kind of Bauhaus theme. The chairs were all three-legged chairs, so we'd be getting into these intense discussions about "Tommy," and every two hours, one of us would go ass-over-teakettle back over the chair. He'd be waving his arms and doing a windmill and go flat on his back, and I'd do the same thing. It took a month to get these chairs changed because of some contractual rule with the architect that they couldn't change anything without approval. Because he was Pete Townsend, he made such a ruckus. It kept everything in perspective. 

-Brian in Atlanta 
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