tim mclaughlin

Eugene Ballet’s Tommy: Turning rock opera into dance

The world premiere of choreographer Toni Pimble’s Tommy: The Ballet offers live music and excitement at their feet.


Eugene Ballet’s Artistic Director Toni Pimble brings together original choreography with live music in the world premiere of Tommy: The Ballet on April 11-12 at Eugene’s Hult Center for the performing arts.


Pimble’s new work, based on The Who’s classic 1969 rock opera, begins against the backdrop of World War II when Captain and Mrs. Walker become the parents of a young boy, Tommy. When Tommy is four, his father, assumed dead in battle, returns home to Britain to discover his wife and new lover in an embrace. A fight ensues, and the boyfriend is fatally shot. Tommy witnesses this tragedy reflected in a mirror, and he’s left in a catatonic state of sensory deprivation. As his story unfolds, Tommy is abused, rejected, and neglected. He remains unattached, seeming to connect with the world only when, as a teenager, a pinball machine becomes his passion. Without it, he continues to gaze into the mirror and finally, out of rage, frustration, and desperation, his mother shatters the mirror freeing Tommy from his catatonic state of mind.

Antonio Anacan as Tommy the “Pinball Wizard” Credit: Jon Christopher Meyers Photography.

Antonio Anacan as Tommy the Pinball Wizard. Photo: Jon Christopher Meyers Photography.

News of his cure and his championship prowess as a pinball wizard causes him to become a hero idolized by the public and the press. But when he attempts to share his personal philosophy of peace, health and happiness, his fans reject him. As he once again begins slipping into his childhood reclusiveness, he turns to his family, embraces them in acceptance, and reconciles with his younger selves.

To learn more about this original production, ArtsWatch conducted an email interview with EB Artistic Director Toni Pimble, the show’s music director Tim McLaughlin (who leads Eugene’s award-winning jazz/funk/world-fusion band, Eleven Eyes) and dancers Isaac Jones (who performs as Kevin, Tommy’s evil babysitting cousin), Danielle Tolmie (the Gypsy Queen, prostitute and con woman) and Mark Tucker (Captain Walker).


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