Long, lanky, and dressed in slim jeans and popped collar, singer-dancer-actor Tommy Tune is still amazingly attractive, even at 70. This guy has more spark, energy and good looks than kids a third his age. He hasn’t even thought about hanging up the top hat and cane. So he is bringing his biographical show to the Berkshires November 12. That’s going to brighten up our shorter Fall days a lot.
With an amazing show biz history there are lots of people who will delight in his visit. After all, it’s been simply ages since he and Twiggy knocked us over in My One and Only, and his rescue of the troubled Grand Hotel before it hit Broadway resulted in a musical better than the classic film. Theatre people can remember the horrible moment that they learned of his terrible 1995 accident when he broke his foot during the out-of-town tryout of Busker Alley. He recovered, but the show didn’t. And yes, the man still moves like a dream, and he has the chops to prove it, albeit a little more carefully.
In Brief: Tommy Tune in Steps In Time: A Broadway Biography In Song And Dance featuring The Manhattan Rhythm Kings will be coming to the Colonial on November 12, at 8PM. Tickets are $65 and $45 and can be purchased in person at the Colonial Ticket Office at 111 South Street Monday-Friday 10AM-5PM, performance Saturdays 10AM-2PM, by calling (413) 997-4444 or online at www.thecolonialtheatre.org.
At the Colonial, his show will be a mix of career highlights and new material. Talking with Playbill he said: “It’s been hard to figure out what to leave out, because other than spending two weeks at Young & Rubicam as a concept coder, I’ve been in show business my whole life.” As a result audiences can expect a mix of old chestnuts and some lesser gems, just the sort of program that keeps things interesting.
“I never stop tinkering with my shows. I don’t believe in that word ‘frozen.’ I think it means icy and cold,” says Tune. “I learn from each audience, and the more time I spend on center stage, the more I learn to feel what they feel. The idea is to lift their spirits and bring them to higher ground.”
Known as one of the most creative theatre innovators of the Twentieth Century, Tommy Tune has enchanted audiences over the past 50 years with his charisma, vision, and accomplishments. A native Texan, Tune began his career as a dancer in the Broadway shows, Baker Street, A Joyful Noise, and How Now Dow Jones. He would soon step out of the chorus and into a principal role in the Broadway musical Seesaw, which garnered him his first Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Less than a decade later, he won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in My One and Only.
However, Tune’s talents were not limited to his onstage performances. Throughout his career, he would go on to win an additional seven Tony Awards, four for Best Choreography (A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, Grand Hotel, My One and Only, The Will Rogers Follies) and three for Best Direction of a Musical (Nine, Grand Hotel, The Will Rogers Follies), bringing his total to an unprecedented nine Tony Awards.
“My great dream was to dance in the chorus of a Broadway show. Nobody told me that chorus boys don’t come super-sized.” Tune says he is “Five foot, seventeen and three quarters” inches tall.
This amazing man has received eight Drama Desk Awards, three Astaire Awards and the Society of Directors and Choreographers George Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement. He is also the recipient of the The National Medal of Arts, the Country’s highest honor for artistic achievement.
And let’s not forget film: Hello Dolly, The Boyfriend, Mimi Bluette, Fiore Del Mio Giardino and Hollywood Blvd are among his credits. Tune has been honored with a star on the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame. Throughout his career he has toured extensively in productions of Irma La Douce, Seesaw, Tommy Tune Tonight, My One and Only, Bye, Bye, Birdie and this act with The Manhattan Rhythm Kings.
Most recently, Tommy Tune directed the new musical, Turn of the Century, at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. The show, slated for Broadway, was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice of Jersey Boys fame.
And for the past year, the veteran quadruple threat has marked his 50th year in show business with Steps in Time, A Broadway Biography in Song and Dance. Here is a video about the new show and his career.
Tommy and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings
“I found them on the corner by the Winter Garden Theatre, around 1980,” he recalls. “I saw them when I came out of the subway, singing all my favorite songs from the 1920s and 1930s, so I dropped my card in the hat and told them to call me. And they did. So we got together, and we put together this act of songs that were written by Fred Astaire that we were going to do at Michael’s Pub — until the Philly Pops asked us to premiere there with a symphony orchestra. And the rest, as they say, is history.”
Known for their polished performances of American popular music from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, the Manhattan Rhythm Kings have gained a large and enthusiastic following across the country. While frequently compared with such musical greats as the Mills Brothers and Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys, the trio has established a unique character of its own with a combination of close harmony singing, virtuosic instrumental work and spectacular tap dancing. The Rhythm Kings started performing together on the sidewalks of New York in 1980. From there these song and dance men graduated to playing cabarets, colleges and concert halls across the country.
It was their sparkling combination of song and dance that first attracted the attention of Broadway’s Tommy Tune. In 1984 Mr. Tune asked the trio to assemble an act based on the songs written by Fred Astaire. Their collaboration continues today and the act has performed together in venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall and Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza, and a tour of the former Soviet Union, where they commanded standing ovations in Moscow, Tblisi and St. Petersburg.
The King’s have performed with over 70 orchestras, including the Boston Pops, The Pittsburgh Symphony and the orchestras of Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Atlanta, among others. The Rhythm Kings have made numerous appearances on TV, most notably Evening at pops, with John Williams, Tommy Tune and the Boston Pops, as well as the Emmy Award-winning Celebrating Gershwin with conductor Michael Tilson-Thomas. In addition, they’ve starred in their own special for Nebraska Public Television, and were featured with Andrew Litton and the Dallas Symphony on their PBS special. Other TV credits include The 1992 Tony Awards, The Today Show, CBS, This Morning, the 1992 Kennedy Center Honors, Entertainment Tonight, As the World Turns, as well as several appearances on The Charles Grodin Show.
In 1992, they were back on Broadway, this time indoors at the Shubert Theatre. They were featured as Mingo, Moose and Sam, a trio of crooning bumpkins in the Gershwin musical Crazy for You, winner of three Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Choreography.
The MRKs have shared the stage with Bob Hope, George Burns, Sandy Duncan, Liza Minelli, Leonard Bernstein, Judy Collins, Bette Midler and Gregory Hines, to name a few. They also appeared with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall’s Easter Spectacular.
After two decades of performing together, the Manhattan Rhythm Kings look forward to more symphony pops dates, another tour of Italy and Europe, concert performances with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks and their pal, Tommy Tune.
Tickets are $65 and $45 and can be purchased in person at the Colonial Ticket Office at 111 South Street Monday-Friday 10AM-5PM, performance Saturdays 10AM-2PM, by calling (413) 997-4444 or online at www.TheColonialTheatre.org