For decades, Texas-born Tommy Tune has been tapping his way into the hearts of millions with a pep that shows no sign of stopping. On Saturday, November 18, the 10-time Tony Award-winning actor-choreographer-director heads to the Maltz Jupiter Theatre for an evening of dance, Great American Songbook standards, and storytelling. Ahead of his benefit performance, we caught up with the statuesque song-and-dance man to talk all things entertainment.
You regularly perform in Palm Beach but it’s been awhile since you performed at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. When was your last performance?
Before it was renovated. There were still tables when I played there. They’re providing me with an orchestra, which is a big deal. Normally, I play with a quartet.
What can guests expect from your show?
I’ve created a Gershwin sequence specifically for the show and I’ll sing some of my signature songs like “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish” which I first performed in Seesaw. I won my first Tony Award in 1974 for that musical.
Were do you go for inspiration?
I get inspired all over the place. A flock of birds flying in a beautiful formation is choreography to me. I also paint when I’m not singing and dancing and acting and directing. The idea is to always be in a permanent state of creativity, whether you’re making dinner for friends, going to an art class, or working out. I think it’s a good way to spend your time.
What do you like to paint?
Tall things like skyscrapers. I have a great view from my apartment in New York City. I would love to be an abstract expressionist but it’s very hard. It always turns into something else.
What’s your greatest pleasure?
Netflix. Jane Fonda is a very good friend of mine and when she found out I didn’t have Netflix, she got it for me. I just spent an entire Sunday binge-watching El Chapo. The series was so fascinating.
What’s your greatest pet peeve?
People who walk and text at the same time. I see them coming down the sidewalk and I wonder if they’re going to bump into me. There should be a class that teaches people how to be respectful to other pedestrians.
What was one of your most memorable performances?
I performed in Moscow when the Iron Curtain was still down. It was pretty bleak—all the shelves in the grocery stores were empty and we could only get chicken Kiev in the hotel. I performed at this one theater and they went crazy. They were so hungry for entertainment. They also clapped and stomped on the floor at the same time. Hearing 3,000 Russians do that in unison was scary but it just meant they liked it.
What’s one of your greatest achievements?
Directing an all-female production of Grand Hotel in Tokyo this year. I got to work with the Takarazuka Revue, a very talented troupe of 100 Japanese women. They have a huge following and their shows always sell out. For Grand Hotel, they played both the men’s and women’s parts. All 100 performances sold out, it was a complete hit.
Who are some of your favorite actors or actresses?
Carol Channing (pictured above) is my spiritual mother. I talk to her every week. She’s not performing anymore but when you sit and talk with her, it’s a performance. She’s so much fun and she’s a huge inspiration for me. Mike Nichols was one of my best friends and my mentor. I miss him a lot.
What’s your greatest, non-entertainment talent?
Writing handwritten letters. My mother and father and I always wrote to each other. My sister and I still write.
Tell us about your sister. Does she live in New York?
She’s 10 years younger than me and she lives in Ft. Worth, Texas. She teaches tap and she’s a wonderful teacher. I recently had a gig on a ship and she came with me. We did a number together and the audience loved it.
What are you looking forward to doing while you’re here?
Going to the beach. I love the weather and the ocean when it’s the right temperature.
Are you a speedo or a board short kind of guy?
(Laughs) I would say I was a speedo guy but I don’t think there’s much of a market for that right now.