TOMMY: The Who’s electrifying rock opera comes to New Paltz

NEW PALTZ –Peter Townshend’s Tommy, a tale of a young boy’s journey from pain to triumph will be performed April 28 – May 8 on the McKenna stage located on the campus of the State University of New York at New Paltz. Jack Wade directs the musical, with Stephen Kitsakos as the musical director and conductor.

The Tony-nominated musical is set in London between 1943 and 1962. After witnessing the murder of his mother’s lover by his father, Tommy is traumatized into catatonia, and as the boy 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 musical score captures the bones and soul of rock and roll in featuring the prominence of lead guitars, electric bass, keyboard fills and the dancing, driving drums that helped define the rhythms of the sound of the late 1960s.

The cast is comprised of many new and old talents, including guest performer Stephen Balantzian, who is an alumnus of the New Paltz Theatre Arts program with Broadway and TV credits.

This production showcases, particularly, the work of the design and technical training program in the Department of Theatre Arts. The program prepares students for careers in the design and technical aspects of theatre, film and television: scenic, costume and lighting design as well as theatre trades: carpentry, painting, electrics, sewing, cutting and draping, theatre crafts and properties. Students work alongside faculty practitioners getting hands-on experience both on and off the stage.

A pre-show panel discussion, “Placing Tommy on the Musical Stage” will be held on Friday, May 6 at 7:00 p.m. at the theatre. Participants include Jack Wade, director, Hamilton Stapell, Department of History, Daniel Labbado, Department of Media & Communications, and Stephen Kitsakos music director/conductor as moderator

About the Director

John (Jack) Wade is an Associate Professor of Theatre. A theatre historian, he designs lighting and scenery and directs in the departmental Mainstage season. His professional lighting designs have been seen Off-Broadway and in many regional theatres across the country. He has been a distinguished mentor of many designers and performers who have gone on to work in the professional theatre, television and film industries. As a playwright, his recent play, Red Masquerade, was a regional finalist for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Among his awards for playwriting and design, he is the recipient of the Theatre Crafts International Award for outstanding achievement in theatrical design. Professor Wade is member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829 and holds a MFA from The Hilberry Repertory Theatre Graduate Program at Wayne State University. More information available at

About the Music Director/Conductor

Stephen Kitsakos is a Lecturer in Theatre Studies and Musical Theatre. He received training as a theatre composer and lyricist at New York University and with the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. A writer member of ASCAP, he has received commissions from the BMI Foundation, Catskill Watershed Corp, Episcopal Diocese of New York, 4th Wall Musical Theatre, U. Conn and the Smithsonian Institution.

Recent works include the libretti for the opera The Wooden Sword (2007) with music by the distinguished composer Sheila Silver, and with Ms. Silver the cantata The White Rooster, a Tale of Compassion (2009), for the Boston-based early music ensemble Tapestry. He is a contributing writer to The Sondheim Review. More information available at

Performances of Tommy are April 28, 29, 30, May 5, 6, 7, at 8:00 p.m., May 1 & 8 at 2:00 pm. Ticket prices are $18 general reserved, $16 students, seniors and SUNY New Paltz staff. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office (845.257.3880) beginning April 20, Monday – Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., at. Visit to purchase tickets at any time.

Three actors playing Tommy from youth to adolescence. From left to right: Elias Scott-Childress, Kevin Berger, James Hyland.

Preview performance of Tommy given at the Sojourner Truth Library.