Tommy Tune—Steps in Time
By Gary Murray
Starring Tommy Tune and The Manhattan Rhythm Kings (Brian Nalepka, Hal Shane and Scott Leiendecker)
Tommy Tune is a legend on the Broadway stage, a nine –time Tony Award winning actor, director and choreographer who has been on in the limelight for 50 years. He was in the movie Hello Dolly, starring Barbara Streisand. Winning the Tony for Seesaw, he was a driving force in such works as Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Grand Hotel and The Will Rogers Follies. He has taken his life on the theater and put it in an almost one-man show called Tommy Tune—Steps in Time that is playing at the Music Hall at Fair Park.
The stage is almost barren, with a row of floor lights and some side and hanging lights to fill in. The band is set up on-stage with drums, bass and keyboards and piano. The spotlight hits Tommy, wearing a white shirt, black pants and a bright red vest with matching tap shoes. He shows the audience a traditional single tap, double tap and a triple tap, explaining how each is different and how each work together. There is just this simple joy of showing off the basic steps that are magical.
He tells a couple of funny stories about Noel Coward and Fred Astaire. Then the band, all dressed in black, enters the stage. The two background singers and fellow tap dancers (Hal Shane and Scott Leiendecker) are part of The Manhattan Rhythm Kings. The third member Brian Nalepka plays the upright bass. They do a few numbers such as “Lord Help Me I Love it” and “Hey There, Good Times” both including tap numbers.
The true first show stopper happens when he does the lead musical number “Seesaw”. The audience of Tune fans just burst out into applause more than once during this signature number. “You Gotta Have Heart” was another toe-tapping big number that thrilled the audience.
Tommy talked about sharing the dancing stage with the likes of Carol Channing, Tina Turner and Drew Barrymore. He talked about such non-show business topics such as his NYC apartment. Segued into “Up on the Roof”, he climbs on top of a ladder to deliver the number. He discusses his lost love and sings “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face” which turns into a touching ballad.
The performance is dedicated to his co-star Charles “Honi” Coles. He reminisces with the story of Coles’ last performance, bringing tears to the crowd. There is genuine love in his voice as he speaks from the heart about Charles.
The show comes closer to the end with a giant Gershwin melody and talking about working with Twiggy. The Manhattan Rhythm Kings duo does a stunning tap number, with a very technical and moving bit of hoofing on the boards.
Coming back on-stage, he tells the audience about how much the Dallas Summer Musicals and the stage at Fair Park hold such a special part in his life. He made his professional debut on that stage, which made him eligible to get his union card, which helped him land his first gig on Broadway.
The show Tommy Tune—Steps in Time is called “A Broadway biography in Song and Dance” but I prefer calling it seeing a living legend. Like legends that are still on the stage, it would be a serious crime not to see this show. The only problem with the show is that it is only 90 minutes long, barely enough time to encapsulate half a century of stunning performances. One wants Tommy Tune—Steps in Time to keep going well into the night.
Tommy Tune—Steps in Time plays at the Music Hall at Fair Park March 15-20, 2011. Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com