“Tommy” Opens at Paramount Theatre

Tommy, Aurora

The day after The Who’s Tommy debuted on Broadway in 1993, The New York Times exclaimed, “…at long last the authentic rock musical that has eluded Broadway for two generations…an Entertainment Juggernaut.”  Twenty-one years later, no other musical has come close to replicating its sure power, electricity and monumental impact.

Continuing its rapid ascent to the top of Chicago’s musical theater landscape, Aurora’s Paramount Theatre follows its smash hits CATS and Mary Poppins with The Who’sTommy, a story of hope, healing and human spirit, filled with soaring anthems and bursting ballads, mind-exploding images and pulsating dance numbers.


Arguably the best rock opera ever, Tommy, based on the British rock band The Who’s legendary 1969 double concept album, is the story of a little boy who witnesses his father murder his mother’s lover upon his surprise return home after being released from a prisoner of war camp. The trauma sends Tommy into a nearly catatonic state, becoming deaf, dumb and blind. Eventually, his only form of communication becomes pinball, and his wizardry with the flippers propels him into the national spotlight.


Music and lyrics are by rock legend Pete Townshend. Book is by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff. Additional music and lyrics are by John Entwistle and Keith Moon. The 1993 Broadway production was nominated for ten Tony Awards and won five, including Best Choreography and Original Score thanks to iconic rock songs including “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me” and “I’m Free.”
Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti, the director behind Paramount’s critically acclaimed smash hits RENT, Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady, will once again direct.


Music director and conductoris Tom Vendafreddo, fresh from music directing the company’s holiday-season hit Mary Poppins.


Brock Clawson, a 2014 Joffrey Ballet Contemporary Choreographer, makes his Paramount debut as choreographer.


Devin DeSantis, no stranger to starring roles, and so fantastic as Dr. Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein at Drury Lane, makes his Paramount debut as Tommy.

The principal cast also includes David Schlumpf and Hillary Marren, also making their Paramount debuts as Tommy‘s parents, Captain and Mrs. Walker. Jake Klinkhammer(Rooster in Paramount’s Annie) plays drunken pervert Uncle Ernie. Liam Quealy(Skimbleshanks in CATS) is bully Cousin Kevin. Meghan Murphy (Joanne in RENT) is the Acid Queen. Lillie Cummings plays Tommy‘s #1 fan, Sally Simpson.

The Who’s Tommy starts previews at the Paramount on January 14. Press opening isSaturday, January 17 at 8 p.m. Regular performances continue through February 15 at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. Show times are Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and

7 p.m.; Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tickets are only $41 to $54.


To purchase, go to ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or visit the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 2 hours prior to evening performances. Tommy is rated PG-13.


More about Paramount’s Tommy

As always, Paramount is working with the highest caliber of professional talent in every aspect including actors, musicians, creative and technical teams.


In addition to the principal cast, triple-threat women actors/dancers/singers in the ensemble are Aubrey Adams, Mandy Modic, Amy Orman, Alexandra Palkovic, Olivia Renteria, Laura Savage, Jill Sesso and Erica Stephan.


Male ensemble members are William Carlos Angulo, Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, Bryan Howard Conner, Matt Deitchman, Shane Frantz, Josh Kohane, Eric A. Lewis, Terrance Martin, Nolan Moss, Jonny Stein and Neil Stratman.


Young actors Peyton Owen and Ricky Falbo each play the role of Tommy. Peyton Owen is 4-year-old Tommy, and Ricky Falbo is 10-year-old Tommy.
In this production, the 8-member Paramount Band, conducted by Tom Vendafreddo, will play the full, original Broadway orchestrations for The Who’s Tommy.

Paramount’s Tommy design team also includes Trent Stork, assistant director; Linda Buchanan, set; Theresa Ham, costumes; Greg Hofmann, lights; Mike Tutaj, projections;Adam Rosenthal, sound; Sarah E. Ross, props; Penny Lane Studios, wigs; and R&D Choreography, violence design. Rose Marie Packer is stage manager and Jinni Pike is assistant stage manager.


“Come rediscover or be astonished for the first time at the wonders of The Who’s rock opera classic, Tommy,” says director Jim Corti. “A boy’s amazing journey from tragedy to media star: The Pinball Wizard! There’s a stirring poignancy in how we see ourselves mirrored in the struggles of Captain Walker’s family, healing the child in all of us with musical and emotional heights like you’ve never experienced before!”


Jim Corti (director) was hired in 2011 to be the first-ever Artistic Director in the Paramount’s 80+ year history. He was instrumental in launching Paramount’s inaugural Broadway Series, and directed and choreographed Paramount’s first self-produced Broadway show, My Fair Lady, which played to rave reviews. His 2013 Paramount production of Fiddler on the Roof was a smash hit. More recently, Corti’s Miss Saigon was the only musical to make the Chicago Tribune’s “Top Ten Shows of 2013,” and his 2014 production of RENT only underscored Paramount’s rise to the top of Chicago’s musical theater landscape. He is a seasoned veteran to Broadway productions, appearing in the New York casts of Ragtime, A Chorus Line and Candide. Corti has also appeared in the national tours of Urinetown, Cabaret and Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. Highlights from his body of work over three decades include: being the only director in Chicago to have two productions at the same time in the Chicago Tribune’s list of 10 Best Shows in 2009 – Drury Lane’s Cabaret and Writers’ Theatre’s Oh, Coward! He is the sole honoree to have garnered a Jeff Award as an actor (in Marriott’s Grand Hotel), a choreographer (Drury Lane’s Singin’ In The Rain) and director (Northlight’s Blues In The Night and Drury Lane’sSweet Charity). Corti’s next project is directing Paramount’s 2014-15 Broadway series finale, Les Misérables, March 18-April 26, 2015).


Tom Vendafreddo (music director/conductor) made his Paramount debut with In the Heights, recently wrapped Mary Poppins and continues as Paramount’s music director not only for The Who’s Tommy but Les Misérables as well. Other recent credits include On the Town (Marriott Lincolnshire), Shrek the Musical(Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Sweet Charity(Writers’ Theatre), The Wedding Singer(Red Mountain Theatre Company), Gifts of the Magi (Porchlight Music Theatre), The Spitfire Grill (Jeff Nomination: Musical and Music Direction – Bohemian Theatre Ensemble), Pump Boys and Dinettes (Metropolis Performing Arts Centre), Into the Woods (Stage 48 Productions) and Urinetown: The Musical (Harper Theatre Ensemble). Other regional credits include Odyssey (Old Globe Theatre), RENT (San Diego Musical Theatre), It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play (Cygnet Theatre) and Zanna, Don’t! (San Diego State University).


Chicago choreographer and dancer Brock Clawson (choreographer) set a new work, “Crossing Ashland,” on the Joffrey Ballet in the renowned company’s 2014 Contemporary Choreographer program. He is a former ensemble member with Thodos Dance Chicago, where he choreographed four new works through the company’s New Dances series. He has also worked with Milwaukee Ballet and Giordano Dance Chicago.


Paramount’s 2014-15 Broadway Series is sponsored by the Dunham Fund, BMO Harris Bank and PACE (Paramount Arts Centre Endowment). Broadway Series Lighting Sponsor isComEd. Broadway Series Costume Sponsor is Gerald Auto Group.

The Who’s Tommy
is also sponsored by the Daily Herald.