“I think I’m finally getting the hang of it,” said the legendary Broadway song-and-dance man Tommy Tune with a chuckle. Tune, who has been working in show business for 55 years, will perform Taps, Tunes and Tall Tales at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on August 31. “I believe in truth in advertising,” says Tune of the show. “So in the act, I sing, tap and tell stories. It’s a celebration of my 55 years of show biz, of ‘doing what comes naturally [to quote a song from Annie Get Your Gun].’”
The nine-time Tony Award winner has loved touring Taps, Tunes and Tall Tales, and it’s had a reaction he hasn’t seen before. “It’s been so beautifully received,” Tunes gushes. “I’m on cloud nine about the show’s reception. I’ve done about four [touring] acts spread out through the years, and this one is by far the most successful. It’s personal. I always thought people didn’t want to know about my [personal story], but they really do love the stories I tell. It’s really cool, how lucky I am.” The show, which is autobiographical and takes audiences through Tune’s storied career, will feature an eclectic offering of musical numbers. “The composers that I sing range from Gershwin, Cole Porter, Carol King, Green Day. They’re all important to my story. And it’s not really in chronological order. I hop, skip, jump, come back, forward,” he says. When asked what the audience can expect from the act, Tune offered, “I reenact my very first audition in New York. It was my first day in New York City, and it was my first audition—and I got the show! It was for Irma la Douce.”
Among the topics explored in Tune’s show is his relationship with the iconic Carol Channing. “I talk about Carol a lot in the show; she’s been an inspiration,” Tune says. She considers herself my ‘spiritual mother.’ The first time I worked with her was in a musical called Show Girl; meeting her at 17, that’s a long time to know someone. We pull for each other—if she’s going to be on television, I’d be watching and sending good vibes to her.” Other stories Tune tells in the show include his time as a contract star for 20th Century Fox, in which he performed as Ambrose in the film adaptation of Hello Dolly! starring Barbra Streisand. “When it first came out during the Vietnam War, the country was not in the mood for that movie. We sort of fell into a deeper time. Now I see it late at night on TV, and it’s great!”
Tune will be donning his signature red suit for Taps, Tunes and Tall Tales. “[I started wearing the suit] on Bye Bye Birdie in Seattle, which was being broadcast live on TV. I wore a bright yellow, blue, white and red suit. I finished in the red suit during the ‘Rosie’ finale. I took my bow, and they interrupted the show to announce that I’d won the Tony for directing and choreographing The Will Rogers Follies and gave me the award,” Tunes recalls. “After that, people were always saying, ‘where’s the red suit?’ I felt it was time to bring back the red suit. Last Saturday was the first time I’ve worn this new one. And the fabric has a diagonal stretch to it. I’ve done 30 hours of fittings to get it right!” Tune exclaims. Not content to work on just one project at a time, Tune has kept busy, with a recent stint on Netflix’s new season of the resurrected comedy Arrested Development, where he played the brother of Liza Minnelli’s character. He’s also trying to find a venue for Fifty Four Forever, a musical about Studio 54 that he workshopped with students at the University of Miami. “I was invited down to University of Miami in Florida to do it, and these kids were just great. Kids today are so savvy; if they don’t know something they just go to lunch, come back and know it thanks to Google. The kids are very advanced today because of how they can get knowledge,” Tune marvels.
Tune can’t wait to perform in the Hamptons. “Let’s hope for a full house,” he says with pep. His infectious positivity and enthusiasm is sure to delight.
Tommy Tune will perform “Taps, Tunes and Tall Tales” at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on August 31 at 8:30 p.m. Visit whbpac.org.