Brighton's main link to guitar-smashing mod rockers The Who is, of course, through Quadrophenia, the film version of which features so many Brighton locations that there exists a Quadrophenia Walking Tour (and yes, it does include that alleyway).

In many ways, however, it was their earlier album, Tommy, which was more musically innovative - boasting such classic tracks as The Acid Queen, I'm A Boy, I'm Free, We're Not Gonna Take It, and, most famously, the anthemic Pinball Wizard.

Now, having been re-worked into an award-winning stage musical by guitarist Pete Townsend and theatre director Des McAnuff, the story of the "deaf, dumb and blind boy who sure plays a mean pinball" is coming to Brighton - with stage and TV star Jonathon Wilkes in the title role.

"I wanted to take this part because I've always loved the music," says Wilkes, who began his career in the Stoke Amateur Operatic Society opposite Robbie Williams - the two later sung a duet at the Swing While You're Winning Show in the Royal Albert Hall.

Having also starred in Godspell, Grease and The Rocky Horror Show and presented TV shows You've Been Framed and Love On A Saturday Night, Wilkes admits Tommy is a bit of a departure from his usual public image but says this was part of the attraction.

"I know I'm usually seen as this kind of cheeky chappie," he says. "But I'm 26 now and I wanted a big part I could get my teeth into. I'm a rock singer anyway, so I've got the right kind of voice."

Clearly relishing the chance to let his hair down, he confesses he's been tempted to follow in the footsteps of The Who's notoriously destructive stage show.

"Honestly, I've come very close to going over to the band and telling them to smash their instruments. I haven't actually done it yet but you never know. In Brighton, I might get carried away

"Some people will assume it'll be full of fuddyduddies just because it's in the theatre, but I can tell you that this is a rock show. The opening guitar riff of Pinball Wizard will make the hair on your arms stand on end."

For all its powerful guitar lines and sing-along choruses, the plot is highly unusual and fairly dark, concerning a young boy who, having witnessed a deeply traumatic event, becomes deaf, dumb and blind. However, his extraordinary talent for pinball leads him to become the centre of a quasi-religious cult, before his followers eventually revolt against him.

"It's a very strange story," agrees Wilkes, "and it does have some quite dark aspects. It also deals with celebrity, such as when Tommy starts to question why he's famous just for playing pinball.

"So there's a little message in there, saying the true miracle is being able to see and speak and hear - the things we take for granted."

Although The Who's original Tommy album won tremendous critical acclaim, the Ken Russell-directed film version, released in 1975, met with more mixed fortunes.

Despite an impressive cast including Elton John, Eric Clapton, Oliver Reed, and Jack Nicholson, it has failed to achieve more than a cult following.

Wilkes insists the stage show has a more widespread appeal.

"Hand on heart, I can tell you this show is fantastic. I'm sticking my neck out here but I guarantee you'll have a good night."

Times vary (Mon-Thurs 7.45pm, Fri 5pm and 8.30pm, Sat 4pm and 8pm). Tickets cost £16-£27.50, call 08700 606650.