Tommy Tune
Tune in 1977
Thomas James Tune

(1939-02-28) February 28, 1939 (age 85)
EducationLon Morris College
University of Texas, Austin (BFA)
University of Houston (MFA)
  • Actor
  • choreographer
  • dancer
  • singer
  • theatre director
  • producer
Years active1965–present

Thomas James Tune[1] (born February 28, 1939[2]) is an American actor, dancer, singer, theatre director, producer, and choreographer. Over the course of his career, he has won ten Tony Awards, the National Medal of Arts, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life

Tune was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, to oil rig worker, horse trainer, and restaurateur Jim Tune and Eva Mae Clark along with his sister, Gracey. He attended Mirabeau B. Lamar High School, Houston and the Methodist-affiliated Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas. He studied dance under Patsy Swayze in Houston.[3] 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.[4]


Tune stands a lanky 6 feet 6+12 inches (199.4 cm) 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.[5]

In 1965, Tune made his Broadway debut as a performer in the musical Baker Street. He gained national attention in 1969 when TV producer Greg Garrison hired him as a specialty dancer and assistant choreographer for The Dean Martin Show and its summer replacement series, Dean Martin Presents The Golddiggers.

Tommy Tune became well known behind the scenes as a reliable dance expert. In 1978, when the musical-comedy revue Hellzapoppin starring Jerry Lewis and Lynn Redgrave was having an out-of-town tryout, Tune was called in three weeks before the show's Broadway bow: he arrived in Boston on a Saturday to debut in a dance number on the following Monday.[6] Tune's contribution came too late to save the show, which closed less than a week later when a plan to televise Hellzapoppin suddenly fell through.

Tune's first Broadway directing and choreography credits were for the original production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1978. His direction of Maury Yeston's Nine 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.[7]

Tommy Tune directing Cloud Nine in 1982

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.[8][9]

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.

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. His film credits include Ambrose Kemper in Hello, Dolly! (1969), directed by Gene Kelly and starring Barbra Streisand, The Boy Friend (1971) with Twiggy, and Mimì Bluette... fiore del mio giardino (1976) with Shelley Winters and Monica Vitti. He also appeared briefly on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in 1988.[10][11]

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.[12]

Tune staged an elaborate musical entitled Paparazzi for the Holland America Line cruise ship the Oosterdam in 2003.[13] 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).[14]

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.[15][16][17]

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.[18]

Tune appeared as Argyle Austero, a senior member of the (literally) 'gay mafia', in the revived fourth and fifth seasons 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 "Fascinating Rhythm."[19]

In the eighteenth episode of the sixth season of The Simpsons, "A Star Is Burns," the citizens of Springfield are invited to make their own movies for a town film festival. Mr. Burns's film, "A Burns for All Seasons," features Tune's name in the credits, playing the role of Waylon Smithers.

Personal life

Before leaving Texas in the 1960s for a Broadway career in New York, Tune worked with Mary Highsmith (mother of 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."[20] 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.[21][22]

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.[23] 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.[24]

In September 2021, Tommy Tune was elected the honorary president of the American Guild of Variety Artists, the labor union for non-actor stage performers.[25]

Broadway productions

Awards and nominations

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

Other recognition

In other media


  1. ^ Matthew Blank (February 3, 2015). "CUE & A: Song and Dance Legend Tommy Tune on Carol Channing, Kissing Twiggy and His Love of Pro Wrestling". Playbill. Archived from the original on February 3, 2015. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  2. ^ Tommy Tune.
  3. ^ Kelly, Devin (September 18, 2013). "Patsy Swayze, mother of Patrick Swayze, dies at 86". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  4. ^ Kim Summers (2008). "Tommy Tune Biography". All Music Guide. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
  5. ^ "Tommy Tune". People. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  6. ^ Dan Lewis, "It's curtains for 'Hellzapoppin'", The Record, Hackensack, NJ, January 20, 1977, p. 28.
  7. ^ Jones, Kenneth (November 2, 2008). "Tune, Elice and Brickman's Turn of the Century Ends in Chicago, Aims for a Future". Playbill. Archived from the original on January 7, 2009. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
  8. ^ Elyse Sommer (December 1, 2007). "Busker Alley: From One Night Benefit to Gala CD Launch. . .and On to Broadway". Curtain Up. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
  9. ^ "Dr. Dolittle Closes His Practice on the Road". Playbill. August 3, 2006. Archived from the original on September 6, 2012. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
  10. ^ "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (TV Series) 1594: Kindness and Unkindness (1988)". IMDb. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
  11. ^ "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (TV Series) 1595: Kindness and Unkindness (1988)". IMDb. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
  12. ^ talkinbroadway review, undated ca. 1999
  13. ^ listing for Holland America[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Elyse Sommer (December 19, 2002). "A CurtainUp Review Tommy Tune: White Tie and Tails". curtainup. Retrieved June 7, 2008.
  15. ^ Jane Hurwitz (January 21, 2009). "For ' Steps in Time, Tommy Tune Taps into a Long, Tall Career". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
  16. ^ 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 January 22, 2008.
  17. ^ Jan Nargi (April 14, 2008). "Tommy Tune: Steps in Time". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved June 7, 2008.
  18. ^ "Tommy Tune Awards". Theatre Under The Stars. 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
  19. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Madcap Stratagems of Songful Siblings" The New York Times, February 5, 2015
  20. ^ 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, pp. 61-63
  21. ^ Andrew Gans (December 18, 2007). "Tommy Tune Launches On-Line Art Gallery". Playbill. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved June 7, 2008.
  22. ^ Tommy Tune (1997). "A Broadway Tune: A Halloween Visit with Tommy Tune". glbtq Encyclopedia (transcript). Interviewed by Owen Keehnen. Archived from the original on August 14, 2007. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
  23. ^ Tune, Tommy (1997). Footnotes: A Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-84182-7.
  24. ^ "Tommy Tune Gets Back on His Feet With Book, CD and Stage Musical". Playbill. October 22, 1997. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  25. ^ "EXTRA, EXTRA...Variety News! - AGVA officer Election results are in!" AGVA website; September 25, 2021
  26. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  27. ^ "Tommy Tune inducted into Hall of Fame". The Post-Star. August 2, 2009.
  28. ^ "Frank Costanza Quote #11". tvquot. Archived from the original on April 15, 2022.