Ali Louis Bourzgui
Ali Louis Bourzgui

5 Questions with Ali Louis Bourzgui of The Who’s TOMMY

After earning rave reviews in the Goodman Theatre production of The Who’s TOMMY, Ali Louis Bourzgui is getting ready to reprise his performance for the highly anticipated Broadway revival.

Matt Rodin and Ali Louis Bourzgui in Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.
Matt Rodin and Ali Louis Bourzgui in Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.

Finding time in between the Chicago and Broadway productions of TOMMY to star in the Company national tour as Paul, Bourzgui will next star as the titular role in The Who’s TOMMY when the revival premieres at the Nederlander Theatre this spring.

In anticipation of his Broadway debut, Broadway Direct asked the rising star 5 Questions, finding out how performing magic shows with his aunt at a young age set the path for his career, which fellow Arab American artists inspire him, and what “dystopian sci-fi–like” elements await audiences heading to The Who’s TOMMY this spring.

1. What inspired you to become an actor?

Ever since I was kid I had the performance bug. My aunt used to help me put on magic shows that I would completely direct and micromanage. Then that evolved to me completely reenacting my favorite VHS-tape films with my brother while my mom filmed. Then, in middle school, it was a full YouTube series I created that now remains completely under wraps for the sake of my dignity. Growing up in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, I was also in an artist’s mecca. I had Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Theatre Group, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and Shakespeare & Company all within driving distance and was able to get involved at an early age. I grew up in the Christmas Carol circuit, if you will. My mom’s side of the family has many artistic souls, and my grandmother was a huge lover of acting as well, which I like to think passed down in our DNA.

2. Who in your field inspires you?

I’m inspired by artists who produce unapologetic work. Work that is highly specific, artistically obscure, and unapologetic in its uniqueness. Also, people who are able to fully fall in love with the work and uplift the voices of those who are voiceless. Ramy Youssef inspires me in the way he’s been able to give a voice to Arab Americans and Muslims in his own very specific way and also goes about it with extreme grace and humbleness. I would love to work with him someday, and I am constantly inspired by his bravery and contributions to our community. He opened a gate for so many Arab artists to begin telling their stories. Sanaz Toossi, Dania Bdeir, Iman Zawahry, Sylvia Khoury, Mo Amer, Martin Yousif Zebari, Sivan Battat. These are just a small few of the names of the community of people opening these doors to the next generation of Arab theater and film artists, and I uplift their names in how inspiring their work is to me. Mark Ruffalo also immediately comes to mind as soon as I think about what kind of an actor I want to be. He has bounced around in his career without getting himself trapped too heavily in any kind of box and has never let the stardom get to him. He still goes about the work with complete humility and gratefulness and never loses his love for the opportunity to tell stories. That’s the goal for me above all else.

Ali Louis Bourzgui in The Who's TOMMY.
Ali Louis Bourzgui in The Who’s TOMMY. Photo by Liz Lauren.

3. What will audiences be most excited about seeing in The Who’s TOMMY?

If you’re a Who fan, I think you’re really going to enjoy the honoring of the legacy of this piece but also be thrilled by how we’ve allowed it to grow. There are new things to discover in the story, and you’ll enjoy Easter eggs and references to past iterations while being completely jazzed by brand-new choices and updated technology. If you’re new to the story, be prepared to experience an IMAX movie of musicals. It’s a whirlwind for the senses, and the music is just plain incredible. My favorite part of this new production is Lorin Latarro’s choreography that evokes a dystopian sci-fi–like futuristic movement pattern and combines it with that of the original time period of the piece. [Director Des McAnuff] and Lorin’s carefully crafted ensemble never stops and constantly excites, while in my opinion inventing an all-new style of movement for Broadway that will become iconic. And for the ultra Who fans, I’ll be serving up some classic deep-cut [Roger] Daltrey riffs, if you’re keeping your ears open for it.

4. If you didn’t need to sleep at night, what would you spend your time doing?

I feel like there’s never enough time in the day to catch up on all the movies and music I want to experience. I’m just such a huge fan of both art forms in general, and there’s nothing that makes me happier than exploring and cultivating every genre and corner of them. Spotify is such an incredible tool for discovering new music and I’m constantly listening and finding my new album obsession or making carefully curated playlists. I’ve currently been diving deep into the world of “desert blues” and listening to groups that combine classical North African Gnawa music with Western blues/rock. At the same time, I’ve been trying to get out and support all our local movie theatres and catch up on the new Oscar-nominated films. Past Lives is my favorite of this last season.

5. What is your favorite NYC spot?

My favorite spot in NYC is Central Park. Specifically, the north side in the more forested area, and especially during cherry blossom season. I grew up in the nature-filled mountains of the Berkshires, so my soul gravitates to nature wherever I can get it. The park is my place to breathe and reconnect when the city gets to be too much. There’s nothing more magical than seeing the whole collective community of New York flocking out onto the fields of the park and everyone breathing and resetting in the sun together.

You can catch Ali Louis Bourzgui in The Who’s TOMMY at the Nederlander Theatre this spring.

Learn More About The Who’s TOMMY