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The Ending

What does Tommy mean? What happens at the end and what is the lesson Tommy is trying to teach us?

To answere those questions, lets first compare the original ending to (the one from the original album and the film), to the Broadway ending. On the original album and in the film, Tommy and his family create a literal "Holiday Camp" or theme park devoted to Tommy. His fans and followers flock to it, but are quite disappointed by how expensive everything is. They went to the camp expecting to learn from Tommy, but instead they got ripped off. Realizing they had been had, the crowd turns against Tommy, riots, and leaves Tommy on his own to ponder his own fate. In the film, it seems Tommy accepts that he is on his own and embraces his new life free of the trappings of mental illness or celebrity.

However, in the modern incarnation of Tommy, the ending is quite different. There is no literal camp; just Tommy's Uncle peddling presumably homemade "Tommyabilia" outside one of Tommy's live shows. The crowd quite literally worships Tommy and they expect him to have all the answers. But, when one of his fans asks him, "How can we be more like you?", Tommy answers "Why would you want to be? The point is I'm finally more like you!"

Tommy's fans wanted to buy into the celebrity of Tommy. They wanted to buy the T-shirts and records and all that jazz. Tommy realizes that it's not him they adore, it's the celebrity myth that he's become; that's what they want a piece of. So, Tommy calls them on it. He says that his life was no picnic and it certainly isn't anything anybody should want any part of. He tells the crowd they shouldn't try to be like him; being themselves is good enough. "Be what you'll be"

Tommy's fans feel let down and the more he talks, the more pissed off they become. Eventually, the crowd storms off leaving Tommy alone with his family and his mirror. For a moment, it looks as though Tommy may revert back to his "autistic" state, but instead, Tommy chooses to accept his new life. He turns away from the mirror and toward his family. He forgives them for all for what they've done in the past and embraces each one of them. And that's it. The end.

...So what does it mean? Acording to Roger Daltrey (lead singer for The Who)"Well, that's the beauty of the piece. The ambiguity of it allows it to answer so many different things for different people, but in fact, it answers nothing."

...Well, that may have been good enough for a rock album, but in theater, the show has to mean something and end somewhere. Since The Who are no help, let's ask our director, Lisa Antonecchia: "To me the turning poing happens at the beating of Sally [a fan of Tommy's], when Tommy takes the moment to realise how out of hand life has become. He believes these people do love him, all of them, since he craves it, and wants to be accepted. When he admits his disires to be normal and "We're not gonna take it"[a song in which the crowd turns on Tommy] begins, he is shocked and saddened that he has been mislead yet again, and that he means nothing to these people. He begs for them to listen, he begs to matter, but they all leave, except for family! It appears he is going to return to the mirror world he has left, but he finds his inner strength to forgive those who have truly hurt him most: family! He gets them to forgive themselves for their mistakes to forgive eachother and to start a new. He in the end saves them, when all he wanted on his journey was for somebody to save him."