Welcome back to my 'And the Tony Almost Went to...' series, where I talk about the one show that probably came closest to winning Best Musical in any previous year of the Tony Awards.
Based on The Who's 1969 concept album titled Tommy, the rock opera follows a deaf, dumb, blind boy who after witnessing the accidental murder of his mother's lover by his father, he is traumatized into catatonia. As Tommy grows up, he suffers abuse at the hands of his sadistic relatives and neighbors. As an adolescent, he's discovered to have an uncanny knack for playing pinball and, when his mother finally breaks through his catatonia, he becomes an international pinball superstar.
The original cast included Michael Cerveris as Tommy, Jonathan Dokuchitz as Captain Walker, Marcia Mitzman as Mrs. Walker, Anthony Barrile as Cousin Kevin, and Paul Kandel as Uncle Ernie. Yet, the ensemble featured a who’s who of future Tony nominees/winners such as Christian Hoff, Norm Lewis, Michael McElroy, Alice Ripley, and Sherie Rene Scott.
The production received 11 Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris; Paul Kandel), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Marcia Mitzman), Best Direction of a Musical (Des McAnuff)*, Best Book of a Musical (Des McAnuff & Pete Townshend), Best Original Score (Pete Townshend)*, Best Choreography (Wayne Cilento)*, Best Lighting Design (Chris Parry)*, Best Scenic Design (John Arnone)*, and Best Costume Design (David C. Woolard).
*denotes an award it won.
Why Didn’t The Who's Tommy Win?:
Kiss of the Spider Woman won 7 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Lead Actor in a Musical (Brent Carver), Best Lead Actress in a Musical (Chita Rivera), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Anthony Crivello), Best Book of a Musical (Terrence McNally), Best Original Score (John Kander & Fred Ebb; in a tie with The Who's Tommy), and Best Costume Design (Florence Klotz).