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A Film by Michael Kantor


Choreographers, Directors & Producers

Tommy Tune

An actor, dancer, choreographer, and director. His father worked in the oil industry, and Tune grew up in Houston, Texas. He took dancing lessons from the age of five, directed and choreographed musicals in high school, and majored in performing arts at the University of Texas. Soon after he moved to New York, he moved right out again with a touring version of “Irma La Douce.” Ironically, his height of six feet nine inches, which he thought might be a hindrance, helped him to gain his first part on Broadway — as one of three tall men in the chorus of the musical “Baker Street” (1965). After further modest roles in “The Joyful Noise” and “How Now, Dow Jones,” he choreographed the 1969 touring version of “Canterbury Tales,” and appeared in two films, HELLO, DOLLY! (1969) and THE BOYFRIEND (1971). His big break came firstly as a performer in “Seesaw” (1973), in which he stopped the show almost every night with “It’s Not Where You Start (It’s Where You Finish),” a number that he choreographed himself. He won a Tony Award for best featured actor, and then did not work on a Broadway musical for five barren years (“I couldn’t even get arrested”). His role as choreographer-director on “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (1978) changed all that, and, during the next decade, Tune became the natural successor to past masters in that field, such as Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Gower Champion, and Michael Bennett.

His big break came firstly as a performer in “Seesaw.”

Tommy Tune

Born: February 28, 1939
Key Shows
  • "Baker Street"
  • "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"
  • "Grand Hotel"
  • "Grease"
  • "How Now, Dow Jones"
  • "A Joyful Noise"
  • "My One and Only"
  • "Nine"
  • "Seesaw"
  • "The Will Rogers Follies"
Related Artists
  • Michael Bennett
  • Cy Coleman
  • Dorothy Fields
  • Marvin Hamlisch
  • David Merrick
  • Chita Rivera
  • Peter Stone
  • Robin Wagner
  • Tony Walton
He brought his own brand of “infectious, eye-popping pizzazz” to a string of hit shows: “A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine” (1980), “Nine” (1982), “My One and Only” (1983, in which he also co-starred with Twiggy), “Grand Hotel” (1989), and “The Will Rogers Follies” (1991). They gained him a total of nine Tony Awards, and induction into New York’s Theater Hall of Fame in 1991. In the following year, Tune took time out from appearing in a lucrative U.S. tour of “Bye Bye Birdie” to stage the London production of “Grand Hotel,” which was greeted with apathy by the critics and public alike. In December 1992 he presented his own “Tommy Tune Tonight!” on Broadway for a limited period, prior to a 20-week 1993 national tour. Also in 1993, he directed the Takarazuka Theater Company in Japan, and two years later, his new production of “Grease” opened on Broadway. During the remainder of the ’90s, he toured with “Tommy Tune and the Rhythm Kings: Everything Old Is New Again,” but withdrew from the musicals “Busker Alley” and “The Royal Family” while they were still on the road. He also experienced problems with the Broadway-bound stage version of the highly successful movie EASTER PARADE, in which he was set to play the Fred Astaire role. However, things looked up in January 1999, when Tune took over from David Cassidy as the star of the special-effects musical spectacular “EFX” in Las Vegas.

FOOTNOTES, Tommy Tune.

Source: Biographical information provided by MUZE. Excerpted from the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POPULAR MUSIC, edited by Colin Larkin. © 2004 MUZE UK Ltd.

Photo credits: Photofest