6 May 2013
Des McAnuff brings Tommy back
The Who’s Pete Townshend, right, performs with Des McAnuff at the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards 20th Anniversary Gala last May in Ottawa. McAnuff is bringing Townshend’s Tommy to Stratford. Photograph by: David Kawai, Ottawa Citizen
As Tommy takes to the stage again, with Des McAnuff at the directorial wheel, at the Stratford Festival, Ontario, Jamie Portman of Postmedia News reflects on MacAnuff’s relationship with Tommy and The Who.
Famed director’s Stratford revival of rock musical embraces new technology
For director Des McAnuff, it all began a near lifetime ago.
He was a suburban Toronto teenager when he first encountered the music that was destined to propel him into the top ranks of international theatre.
So, at the age of 61, he can’t help looking back to those times as — after some early trepidation — he prepares to unveil a new production of Tommy for the Stratford Festival. After all, he’ll never forget the initial impact of hearing The Who’s original album of the groundbreaking Pete Townshend rock opera
Even then, the seeds were being planted in a precocious kid’s mind for the historic 1993 Broadway production that confirmed his dazzling directorial talents
“The first time I heard Tommy I was actually in Scarborough, and I was in a rock and roll band called Isaac,” McAnuff remembers. “I probably would have just turned 17. It would have been the summer of 1969, and we sat down and listened to the album right through.
He was knocked out by what he heard. More to the point, it started his own creative juices working.
“I know I had certain impressions that occurred to me at that very moment,” he says. Those thoughts remained with him over the next two decades until McAnuff — by then the award-winning artistic director of California’s La Jolla Playhouse — began working with Pete Townshend to turn Tommy into a stage musical.
Read the full article in the Ottawa Citizen