Tommy Tune (and yes, that is in fact his real name) will give two performances of his high stepping show Tommy Tune: Steps in Time, A Broadway Biography in Song and Dance at Strathmore’s Music Center in Rockville June 2. Acclaimed by New York Magazine as “Ninety minutes you fervently wish would never end... as big as anything on Broadway,” the show highlights the first five decades of the legend’s celebrated and distinguished storied career. Backed by long time collaborators the Manhattan Rhythm Kings, Tune sings, dances, and laughs his way through his life in the footlights.
Gay Life spoke to Tune recently, where he discussed everything from his upcoming show and his love of Lady Gaga to being a neo-luddite.
Your show, Steps in Time, spans 50 years of your career. How did you choose what would be highlighted in the show?
That was the hardest part! The most difficult part was deciding what to leave out. I really wrestled with that. I tried to include the most amusing and dramatic parts [of my career]. It’s all under the heading of ‘song and dance,’ which is a rare commodity. In fact, I don’t know if there are song-and-dance men anymore. The show is a combination of singing and dancing—the “and” part is communicating [with the audience].
How did your band, the Manhattan Rhythm Kings, get involved in the project?
I met them about 38 years ago. They were street entertainers playing on 55st [St.] and Broadway when I came up from the subway. They were so good that I put my card in their hat. They called me back and we’ve been together ever since.
You’ve been touring with your show for a while. How has the content of your show evolved?
I get rid of numbers, I add numbers, and I’m always working on it. A theater piece is like a living organism, so I still continue to work on it. It’s constantly evolving, morphing really.
Your promotional material for the show features you wearing a pair of fabulous red cowboy boots. Was incorporating those boots an homage to your Texas roots?
Here’s the way it worked: I started working on the show in my tap shoes and they didn’t feel right for telling my back story. So I called my sister down in Texas and came up with the idea of using cowboy boots. But, have you ever danced in cowboy boots? They’re not dance boots, so we put the taps on the boots. Now I’m performing in cowboy boots and it works great.
Being in the business for 50 years, how have you seen the industry change?
Oh my gosh! The whole world has gone technological and so has the theater. When I started my career, microphones weren’t invented! Also, Broadway is now produced by a committee. Plays on Broadway used to be presented by one producer, now there’s a list of about 20 people producing.
You’ve worked with virtually everyone on Broadway—are there any contemporary performers that you would like to work with?
Lady Gaga. She’s just it!
When you’re not performing, how do you relax? Is it ever possible for you to “turn off”?
Well, I love to cook. My father was a really good cook, so I like to prepare meals for friends. I like to paint. I have a studio on the High Line in Chelsea. I also read a lot. I just read Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles and Frank Langella’s memoir Dropped Names. I just started In One Person by John Irving last night. I also write letters. I am a neo-luddite—I’m computer illiterate. And I don’t have a cell phone. Everybody is amazed that I don’t have a cell phone.
We live in a reality-show-competition/instant star culture. Do you have any advice for young performers trying to break into show business and in particular, Broadway?
Don’t live in that reality. Find your own. It doesn’t exist on television and on the net. If you’re looking to be a creative person, you’re not going to find inspiration in a reality show. It’s not reality. It’s very tricked up reality. That’s not reality. I think people are accepting reality shows as reality and it’s not real, it’s tricked out.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with our readers?
What I’m doing right now is performing Steps In Time. I’m just going all over the world doing this show right now. Five different decades of my life and this one is the most successful, it’s very personal. It’s an accumulation of a lifetime of theater. I do Gershwin, Cole Porter, Carol King, and Green Day.
Steps in Time: A Broadway Biography in Song and Dance
Saturday, June 2 • 2 & 8pm • $28-$58
Music Center at Strathmore • 5301 Tuckerman Lane, Bethesda
301.581.5100 • Strathmore.org