Tommy Tune

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Tommy Tune
Tommy Tune 1977.JPG
Tune in 1977.
Thomas James Tune

(1939-02-28) February 28, 1939 (age 80)
EducationLon Morris College
University of Texas, Austin (BFA)
University of Houston (MFA)
OccupationActor, choreographer, dancer, singer, theatre director, producer
Years active1965–present

Thomas James "Tommy" Tune[1] (born February 28, 1939) is an American actor, dancer, singer, theatre director, producer, and choreographer. Over the course of his career, he has won ten Tony Awards and the National Medal of Arts.

Early life[edit]

Tune was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, to oil rig worker, horse trainer, and restaurateur Jim Tune and Eva Mae Clark. He attended Lamar High School in Houston and the Methodist-affiliated Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas. He studied dance under Patsy Swayze in Houston.[2] He also studied dance with Kit Andree in Boulder, Colorado.

He went on to earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from the University of Texas at Austin in 1962 and his Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Houston. Tune later moved to New York to start his career.[3]


Tune stands a lanky 6'6½" tall, and at first he found his height to be a disadvantage when auditioning for roles, as he would tower over potential co-stars. He wore horizontally-striped shirts to auditions, dipped extra low when he did pliés and learned to dance upstage ("I'd look shorter that way. It's a law of perspective") to try to overcome it.[4]

In 1965, Tune made his Broadway debut as a performer in the musical Baker Street. His first Broadway directing and choreography credits were for the original production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1978. His direction of Nine The Musical in 1982, which also won the Tony for Best Musical garnered him his first Tony for direction of a musical. He has gone on to direct and/or choreograph eight Broadway musicals. He directed a new musical titled Turn of the Century, which premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago on September 19, 2008 and closed on November 2, 2008.[5]

Off-Broadway, Tune has directed The Club and Cloud Nine. Tune toured the United States in the Sherman Brothers musical Busker Alley in 1994–1995, and in the stage adaptation of the film Dr. Dolittle in 2006.[6][7]

Tune is the only person to win Tony Awards in the same categories (Best Choreography and Best Direction of a Musical) in consecutive years (1990 and 1991), and the first to win in four categories. He has won ten Tony Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

On television, Tune was a recurring guest star and assistant choreographer from 1969–70 on The Dean Martin Show and its summer replacement series, Dean Martin Presents The Golddiggers. He also briefly appeared on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in 1988.[8][9]

Tune appeared in a 1975 TV special titled Welcome to the "World" along with Lucie Arnaz and Lyle Waggoner to promote the opening of Space Mountain at Walt Disney World.

Tune's film credits include Ambrose in Hello, Dolly! (1969), and The Boy Friend with Twiggy (1971). Tune released his first record album, Slow Dancin', in 1997 on the RCA label, featuring a collection of his favorite romantic ballads.

In 1999, he made his Las Vegas debut as the star of EFX at the MGM Grand Las Vegas.[10]

Tune staged an elaborate musical entitled Paparazzi for the Holland America Line cruise ship the Oosterdam in 2003.[11] He works often with The Manhattan Rhythm Kings, for example touring in a Big Band revue entitled Song and Dance Man and White Tie and Tails (2002).[12]

Tune performed in his musical revue, Steps in Time: A Broadway Biography in Song and Dance, in Boston in April 2008 and continuing in various venues from Bethesda, Maryland in January 2009 to California in February 2009.[13][14][15]

The Tommy Tune Awards, presented annually by Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) honor excellence in high school musical theatre in Houston. The current home of the Tommy Tune Awards is the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in Houston, Texas.[16]

He appeared as Argyle Austero in the revived fourth and fifth season's of Arrested Development on Netflix.

In 2015, he made a return to the New York stage as a featured performer in City Center's staged concert Encores!. He was featured in two numbers in Lady, Be Good!; his first act number was the Gershwin standard "Fascinatin' Rhythm."[17]

Personal life[edit]

Before leaving Texas in the 1960s for a Broadway career in New York, Tune worked with Mary Highsmith, mother of crime novelist Patricia Highsmith, at the Point Summer Theatre. In a letter to her daughter, Highsmith referred to Tune as her "adopted boy" whom she called "Romano." Tune later praised Highsmith for helping him develop his talents: "She was an opening for me; she opened a little bit of my tight fabric so that I might peer through."[18]

When not performing, he used to run an art gallery in Tribeca that featured his own work. As of 2014 it is no longer open.[19][20]

In 1997, Tune's memoir Footnotes was published. In it, he wrote about what drives him as a performer, choreographer, and director and reminisced about his days with Twiggy in My One and Only; as well as meeting and working with his many idols. He further wrote about being openly gay in the world of theater; about losing his partner, choreographer David Steiger Wolfe, to AIDS in 1994, and about the unhappy ending of his relationship with A Chorus Line actor Michel Stuart.[21] He also described a woman whom he did not name but who he said was the "love of [his] life", and some media speculated that the description he gave appeared to fit Twiggy.[22]

Broadway productions[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
1974 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Seesaw Won
1977 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical The Club Nominated
1978 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Won
Outstanding Choreography Nominated
1979 Tony Award Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
Best Choreography Nominated
1980 Best Direction of a Musical A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine Nominated
Best Choreography Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography Won
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Director Won
Outstanding Choreography Won
1982 Tony Award Best Direction of a Musical Nine Won
Best Choreography Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical Won
Outstanding Director of a Play Cloud 9 Won
1983 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical My One and Only Won
Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
Best Choreography Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography Won
1990 Tony Award Best Direction of a Musical Grand Hotel Won
Best Choreography Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical Won
Outstanding Choreography Won
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Director Nominated
1991 Tony Award Best Direction of a Musical The Will Rogers Follies Won
Best Choreography Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography Won
1992 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Choreography Nominated
2003 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography Tommy Tune: White Tie and Tails Nominated
2015 Tony Award Lifetime Achievement Award Won


  1. ^ Matthew Blank (3 February 2015). "CUE & A: Song and Dance Legend Tommy Tune on Carol Channing, Kissing Twiggy and His Love of Pro Wrestling". Playbill. Retrieved 2015-02-03.
  2. ^ Kelly, Devin (2013-09-18). "Patsy Swayze, mother of Patrick Swayze, dies at 86". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
  3. ^ Kim Summers (2008). "Tommy Tune Biography". All Music Guide. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  4. ^ "Tommy Tune". Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  5. ^ Jones, Kenneth (2 November 2008). "Tune, Elice and Brickman's Turn of the Century Ends in Chicago, Aims for a Future". Playbill. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  6. ^ Elyse Sommer (1 December 2007). "Busker Alley: From One Night Benefit to Gala CD Launch. . .and On to Broadway". Curtain Up. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  7. ^ "Dr. Dolittle Closes His Practice on the Road". Playbill. 3 August 2006. Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  8. ^ "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (TV Series) 1594: Kindness and Unkindness (1988)". Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  9. ^ "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (TV Series) 1595: Kindness and Unkindness (1988)". Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  10. ^ talkinbroadway review, undated ca. 1999
  11. ^ listing for Holland America[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Elyse Sommer (19 December 2002). "A CurtainUp Review Tommy Tune: White Tie and Tails". curtainup. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  13. ^ Jane Hurwitz (January 21, 2009). "For ' Steps in Time, Tommy Tune Taps Into a Long, Tall Career". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  14. ^ Adam Hetrick (January 6, 2009). "Tommy Tune to Perform Steps in Time in Stamford in February". Playbill. Archived from the original on January 31, 2013. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  15. ^ Jan Nargi (14 April 2008). "Tommy Tune: Steps in Time". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  16. ^ "Tommy Tune Awards". Theatre Under The Stars. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  17. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Madcap Stratagems of Songful Siblings" The New York Times, February 5, 2015
  18. ^ Schenkar, Joan. The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith. St. Martin's Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-312-30375-4 - page 61-63
  19. ^ Andrew Gans (18 December 2007). "Tommy Tune Launches On-Line Art Gallery". Playbill. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  20. ^ Tommy Tune (1997). "A Broadway Tune: A Halloween Visit with Tommy Tune". glbtq Encyclopedia (transcript). Interviewed by Owen Keehnen. Archived from the original on 2007-08-14. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  21. ^ Tune, Tommy (1997). Footnotes: A Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-84182-7.
  22. ^ "Tommy Tune Gets Back on His Feet With Book, CD and Stage Musical". Playbill. October 22, 1997. Retrieved 2019-07-09.

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