The Who's Tommy

‘The Who’s Tommy’: By the headbanging numbers

The cast and crew for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Who's Tommy.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Here’s a fun taste of what a major feat it was to make a 95-minute rock opera run like a finely tuned … pinball machine

kate coltunBy Kate Coltun (pictured at right) 
DCPA Theatre Company Production Manager

The production process is an often-invisible machine humming away under the unforgettable storytelling we realize onstage. I’d love to pull back the curtain a little on one specific pinball-wizard project — The Who’s Tommy — and share some numbers.


58 Theatre professionals who showed up every night to make our little skit happen, on stage or off. Broken down, that’s:

  • 20 Actors (including two understudies)
  • 8 Band members
  • 3 Stage managers
  • 1 Production assistant
  • 1 Light-board operator58 Humans
  • 3 Spotlight operators
  • 1 Audio engineer
  • 1 Onstage audio crew member
  • 1 Video operator
  • 8 Stagehands running deck, rail, traps and automation
  • 5 Dressers
  • 2 Wig assistants
  • 1 Child supervisor
  • 1 House manager running the front of house

(This does NOT include the dozens of artisans, carpenters, artists, designers, support staff, administrators, marketers, dramaturgical staff, fight directors, dialect coaches, music directors and other specialists who touched this play at some point from inception to its realization.)

Photo by AdamsVisCom


  • Our set, designed by Jason Sherwood, was made up of 4 lifts, 2 concentric turn tables, 2 flying drops, a house that explodes, and a remarkable ballet happening in the trap room to achieve the flawless dance of lifts, turns and magical deliveries that we make look easy. We even engaged our fabulous engineering department to do regular checks on our show-stopping hydraulics system to which we are so grateful. Jason, who was just nominated for a Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award for his work, imagined an idyllic dollhouse to represent Tommy’s childhood that turned into an electrified, abstract pinball machine the moment he learned he could play. Every panel, doorknob, picture frame and detail was electrified to glow and change color as this “deaf, dumb, and blind kid” finally came to life.


113 Costume changes

  • Our props team realized a variety of magical pieces, including 3 highly detailed scale-model dollhouses the cast sit on, stood on, danced on, crawled in and out of, lit up, and showed projected video, along with two period-correct pinball machines that lit up, rolled around and played.


  • 113 Costume changes (in a 95-minute play)
  • 30 Wigs that needed to be switched, maintained and dressed
  • At 1 point we had 5 actors wearing 3 costumes at once to facilitate quick changes


    • 1 Light-board operator709 Lighting
    • 2 Computers running in sync
    • 3 Spotlight operators
    • 32 Universes of DMX control
    • 36 Different types of lighting fixtures
    • 46 Color scrollers
    • 55 Discreet effects
    • 70 Radio-controlled channels
    • 500 Feet of LED tape
    • 709 Lighting fixtures
    • 831 Lighting cues
    • 16,140 Highest DMX address. (DMX stands for Digital Multiplex Protocol. It is an accepted industry method that allows a lighting console to talk to other things like lights and effects. So what does that number mean? Think of each control channel as a switch in your house. So that would be 16,000 switches in your house to control your lights!

Behind the Numbers


  • 1 Giant, 3D-mapped special audio processor just for this production
  • 40 Microphones
  • 64 Individual outputs from the sound console
  • 150 Fired sound cues (separate from the ongoing live mix of mic levels)


  • 1 LED mapping system that talked to our lighting console
  • Live camera feed
  • 6 Video outputs
  • 7 Artists who created content
  • 140 Total number of cues
  • 101,125 minutes: The amount of time it took to render the animation we used across multiple computers — just in the opening prologue alone. That’s almost 1,700 hours. (If you don’t know what rendering is, well … it’s complicated. Click here for a helpful explanation.)

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

They are the captains of this mighty ship, and we couldn’t do a show without any one of them.

  • 761 Called cues, which averages about 1 cue every 7 seconds (though they often came in clumps, with much less time between).
  • 70 hours of tech time before we were ready to preview. (This is time spent in the theatre with actors, designers and technical staff. On a daily basis, our artists, support staff and crew would start at 8 a.m. to be ready for rehearsal by 11 a.m., and finish their day at around midnight throughout the tech process. This does not include the 186 rehearsal hours before we hit the stage.

I just wanted to give you all a taste of what a significant feat it was to make this 95-minute show run like the awesome well-oiled machine it was. To everyone involved with the production: Job well done.

Video: A 360-degree scene from ‘The Who’s Tommy’ at the Denver Center

Prepare to have your mind blown: We filmed a scene from ‘The Who’s Tommy’ using a 360-degree camera. ‘The Who’s Tommy.’ Use the arrows to get the full effect. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


Selected NewsCenter coverage of The Who’s Tommy:


  • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les MisérablesSpring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
  • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
  • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
  • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
  • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the StarcatcherNoise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
  • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812Hair) as Acid Queen/Ensemble
  • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset BoulevardSweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
  • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
  • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
  • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
  • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
  • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
  • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
  • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
  • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
  • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
  • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
  • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
  • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright will share the role of Young Tommy at age 4


  • Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
  • Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
  • Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
  • Directed by Sam Buntrock
  • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
  • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
  • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
  • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
  • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
  • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
  • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena’s Vow)
  • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
  • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
  • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
  • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales.

The orchestra:

  • Angela Steiner: Conductor/Keyboard 1
  • Dan Graeber: Keyboard 2
  • Matthe Scheffelman: French Horn
  • Guitar 1: David DeVine
  • Guitar 2: Daniel Schwindt
  • Bass: Jason Tyler Vaughn
  • Drums/Percussion: Shawn King
  • Music Conductor: Jim Harvey

DCPA Theatre Company Artistic team:

  • Chris Coleman: Artistic Director
  • Nataki Garrett: Associate Artistic Director
  • Charlie Miller: Associate Artistic Director
  • Douglas Langworthy: Literary Director/Director of New Play Development
  • Melissa Cashion: Artistic Producer
  • Grady Soapes: Associate Producer/Director of Casting
  • Chad Henry: Literary Associate


  • Jeff Gifford: Director of Production
  • Kate Coltun: Production Manager
  • Matthew Campbell: Assistant Production Manager
  • Julie Brou: Production and Artistic Office Manager

Scenic Design:

  • Lisa M. Orzolek: Director of Scenic Design
  • Kevin Nelson, Nicholas Renaud: Scenic Design Assistants

Lighting Design:

  • Charles R. MacLeod:  Director of Lighting
  • Lily Bradford: Lighting Design Assistant
  • Reid Tennis: Production Electrician


  • Gregory W. Towle: Projection Supervisor
  • Topher Blair: Multimedia Specialist

Sound Design:

  • Craig Breitenbach: Director of Sound
  • Alex Billman, Frank Haas, Tyler Nelson: Sound Technicians

Stage Management:

  • Kurt Van Raden: Production Stage Manager
  • Christoper C. Ewing: Senior Stage Manager
  • Kailey Buttrick, Rachel Ducat, Heidi Echtenkamp, Corin Ferris, Rick Mireles, Kristen O’Connor, D. Lynn Reiland: Stage Managers

Scene Shop:

  • Eric Moore: Technical Director
  • Robert L. Orzolek: Associate Technical Director
  • Albert “Stub” Allison: Assistant Technical Director
  • Louis Fernandez III: Lead Technician
  • Tyler Clark, Brian “Marco” Markiewicz, Wynn Pastor, Kyle Scoggins, Kyle Simpson, Mara Zimmerman: Scenic Technicians

Prop Shop:

  • Robin Lu Payne: Properties Director
  • Eileen S. Garcia: Assistant Properties Director
  • Jamie Stewart Curl, David Hoth, Georgina Kayes, Katie Webster: Props Artisans

Paint Shop:

  • Jana L. Mitchell: Charge Scenic Artist
  • Melanie Rentschler: Lead Scenic Artist
  • Kristin Hamer MacFarlane: Scenic Artist

Costume Shop:

  • Janet S. MacLeod: Costume Director/Costume Design Associate
  • Meghan Anderson Doyle: Costume Design Associate
  • Carolyn Plemitscher, Jackie Scott: Drapers
  • Cathie Gagnon: First Hand
  • Sheila P. Morris: Tailor

Costume Crafts:

  • Kevin Copenhaver: Costume Crafts Director
  • Chris Campbell: Costume Crafts Assistant


  • Diana Ben-Kiki: Wig Master

House Crew:

  • Doug Taylor: Supervising Stagehand
  • Jim Berman, Jennifer Guethlein, Stephen D. Mazzeno, Miles Stasica, Tyler Stauffer, Matt Wagner: Stagehands
  • Kyle Moore: Assistant Stagehand


  • Brenda Lawson: Director of Wardrobe
  • Taylor Malott, Jessica A. Rayburn: Wig Assistants
  • Robin Appleton, Amber Donner, Anthony Mattivi, Tim Nelson, Lisa Parsons Wagner, Alan Richards: Dressers
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