Fame and fortune await teenager from Tesco

A star is born: Unknown actor lands lead role in pounds 3m production of 'Tommy'

DAVID LISTER

Arts Correspondent

A pounds 50-a-week part-time worker at Tesco has landed the part of Tommy in the forthcoming West End musical of The Who's rock opera.

Nineteen-year-old Paul Keating, from Romford in Essex, will increase his salary 20 times over when he plays the deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard in the pounds 3m production at the Shaftesbury Theatre next Spring.

He beat a staggering 7,000 other hopefuls, including seven pop stars with chart hits, and had to sing in 12 auditions.

Keating, who was back in the stock control room at Tesco yesterday, working out his notice before starting rehearsals, has the dubious advantage of resembling Tommy's composer, The Who's Pete Townshend.

The show's producer, Andre Ptaszynski, said: "There is a passing resemblance to the composer of the piece. Paul has that patrician profile."

He added: "We would have been very happy to have a big name in the part, and we had a number of pop singers, five British and two Australian, but I cannot name them. A couple of them were well over 6ft, which is too tall. Tommy needs to suggest something frail. Paul is also a really strong rock tenor with great range and power."

The new star, who sang in his local church choir and has been working at Tesco for the last two years, has played small parts at his local theatre in Ilford and reads The Stage, which is where he saw the advert for the auditions.

Keating said yesterday he had never been a fan of The Who, and had never heard Tommy until he applied for the audition. He was more of a Madonna and Bjork man.

He added: "I can't wait to get started. I don't really play pinball so I will have to start practising. And Tesco have said I can have my job back if it all fails."

Pete Townshend promised to initiate Keating into the ways of a mod superstar. "In true leftie-luvvie tradition I'm going to nurture his talent with long sessions ... in which Paul will eat jellied eels, learn to ride a Vespa, discover his inner child and prepare himself to selflessly pay huge tax bills," he said.

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