EXCLUSIVE: Tommy Tune, the tall Texan who owns 10 Tony Awards and belongs to that rarest breed of Broadway fauna, the director-choreographer, is looking for work. A chorus dancer-turned-star (he has won Tonys as leading and featured actor as well as director and choreographer, on such shows as Nine, The Will Rogers Follies, Grand Hotel and The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas), Tune has been between shows, as they say in the business, longer than he’d like. So he is currently working with another celebrated hyphenate, Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer-director James Lapine, on Barbara Cook: Then And Now, slated to begin performances April 12 at off-Broadway’s New World Stages.
A master of his own solo shows, Then And Now makes inarguable sense as a choice for his talents. But Tune also aims to return to the Broadway stage and has now signed with Paradigm’s theatrical literary head Jack Tantleff, who represents Jeff Calhoun, a protégé of Tune’s and the director of Newsies.
“Tommy came to me,” Tantleff says, “and asked, ‘Tell me how you perceive me.’ I said, it seems to me that you’re very happy being Tommy Tune.” Wrong, not to put too fine a point on it. Tune, who spent several years painting in a sunlit Miami Beach studio while workshopping a musical about Studio 54 with Florida theater students, and saw other projects failing to jell, said he was eager to return to Broadway.
“Tommy had been working on Easter Parade, and that fell apart,” Tantleff said. He’d then accepted an offer to take over F/X, the MGM Las Vegas show originated by Michael Crawford. A four-week gig turned into several years, “and when he returned to New York, all his collaborators were gone,” Tantleff said. “Everybody had died. ‘I didn’t know what to do,’ Tommy said; he might have really felt lost.”
Tantleff ran into Tune at the off-Broadway opening several weeks ago of Maurice Hines’ Tapping Through Life, which Calhoun had staged. “We met and bonded,” Tantleff says. “We could not be more excited. We want and need a new Tommy Tune musical.” (Disclosure: In 1991, I profiled Tune for Vanity Fair magazine when he was staging The Will Rogers Follies and at the peak of his stardom. While I haven’t loved all the material he chose to work with across the years, neither would I contest the idea that the world needs another Tommy Tune musical.)
“When you mention the name Tommy Tune to somebody, there’s immediate interest,” Tantleff said. “I don’t know any other director whose body of work matches his. We’ve just started throwing ideas back and forth, and I have no doubt there will be a big Tommy Tune show very soon.”
So here’s a secret: Tune is working with a Tony-winning playwright on the musical adaptation of a bestselling novel and major film set in — well, let’s call it the world’s fastest-growing film market. And remember: This is the man who splash-danced with Twiggy in the Gershwins’ My One And Only and turned the Hays Production Code into a miraculous tap hallelujah in A Day In Hollywood/A Night In The Ukraine. He’s sold the Miami Beach condo. He’s back. Someone give the man a show.