Tall Texan Tapper Talks About Show Biz Career

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Tommy Tune has always stood out in a crowd. The gangly six-foot-six (and a half)-inch-tall kid couldn’t be missed in the line-up of aspiring chorus boys at his first Broadway audition. Fortunately, for adoring fans, he wasn’t.

Over the next six decades, the multi-talented performer would rack up 10 Tony wins as an actor, choreographer and director, in addition to eight Drama Desk Awards, two Obies, Astaire and George Abbott Awards AND a spot on the Top 10 International Best Dressed List of 1992.

At 78, he’s still tapping away, performing around the world. On Nov. 18, South Florida audiences will take a musical journey down Memory Lane in “Tommy Tune Tonight!,” a benefit for the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter. Accompanied by a 10-piece orchestra, Tune will dance, sing and tell unforgettable stores from his remarkable career.

“I tap dance and hop scotch through my career,” he said in a telephone interview from his Manhattan apartment. “It’s my story.”

Audiences can expect lots of Gershwin songs, he promised: “Their songs sit in my throat extremely well, I never have any vocal trouble.

And also some Sondheim: “I love his lyrics and melodies. His songs are much more challenging and there’s so much angstification in his music.”

He also may have some surprises: “I’m always, always improving my show, rehearsing it, taking out a number and subbing another in.”

The business—and especially Broadway—has changed since he made the trek to New York City so many years ago.

“When I arrived in New York, most of the theaters were not air conditioned, if you can believe that. There was no sound, the orchestra was in the pit and they kept it down. You had to plant your feet on the stage and sing out, Louise, you projected,” Tune recalled.

Technology has had a big impact on theater, he said.

“Today, while it’s much clearer, microphones crackle, people don’t listen in as much. We used to have to sit forward in our seats to hear Gwen Verdon. We were trained differently. Now, everybody has these microphones stuck on their faces.”

It’s fair to say that Tune is at least a little nostalgic about his earlier years in theater.

“The romance of an earlier time, that’s why I keep going back to the classic, the ‘Great American Songbook’, for the honest and true and unadulterated emotions. The melodies and lyrics are not as sophisticated. A song has a hook and you sing it over and over and over. The sad songs are sadder and the love songs are lovelier,” he said.

How does he maintain such a grueling performance and travel schedule?

Tune answered matter-of-factly, “Yoga is important. It’s better than a ballet class. I was a trained ballet dancer, but I got so tall, I knew I’d have to change my dream, if I was to have some success. Tap dancing is more like tennis, a lifetime sport. You can play tennis for a long time.”

Tickets for “Tommy Tune Tonight!” on Nov. 18 at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Rd. in Jupiter, start at $50 at JupiterTheatre.org. Tune will be returning to South Florida with Chita Rivera on Jan. 19 for “Chita & Tune: Just in Time” at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale. More information at ParkerPlayhouse.com.

 


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