Pinball wizards meet up again 40 years after ‘Tommy’

ANNIVERSARY It is 40 years since stars descended on Portsmouth to film the musical Tommy
ANNIVERSARY It is 40 years since stars descended on Portsmouth to film the musical Tommy
Share this article
Have your say

IT’S been 40 years since some of the world’s biggest stars descended on Portsmouth to film the musical Tommy.

Now, some of those who stood behind the likes of Elton John, Eric Clapton and The Who, have reunited at the Kings Theatre in Southsea.

About 30 extras on the film came together to share their stories with the cast of a stage production of Tommy, to be at the theatre next month.

And with them was the very pinball machine used in the Pinball Wizard sequence in the film.

CCADS theatre group director John-Paul McCrohon said he was thrilled to meet the extras, most of whom were children or teenagers when Tommy was filmed.

He said: ‘It was four decades ago but the people who were involved in the film have such vivid memories of it. To have the extras mingle with the cast of our show made for a very special evening.’

Locations used in Tommy included the Hilsea Lido, the Eastney beach huts and South Parade Pier, which partly burnt down during filming.

Melanie Wells, 55, of Waterlooville, was an extra in scenes filmed at the beach on Hayling Island.

She said stars including Oliver Reed signed a pair of jeans she was wearing.

‘He was quite cheeky. He said “bend over” and wrote “Olly was here” on my backside.’

Ms Wells said her mum later embroidered over the autographs so they would last, and she then made the jeans into a skirt.

She said Tommy inspired her to later do another film.

‘I walked around in sunglasses and a satin jacket for a while afterwards.

‘My friends nicknamed me “the film star” – it was all good fun.’

Joanna Hall, of Shedfield, was in her final year of school when she worked as an extra in scenes filmed inside the Kings.

Now 55, Ms Hall, said: ‘Being a teenager, it was exciting to be up close to stars like Elton John.

‘They smashed loads of instruments on stage that night to get the right shot, but that’s rock ‘n’ roll.’

Ms Hall said the filming inspired her to later sing in a rock band, which she did until she was 26.

The production of Tommy will be at the Kings on June 19 to June 21.

Mr McCrohon said visitors could read the extras’ stories at the Kings in an exhibition called Tommy Past and Present.