Wednesday, March 28, 2012

REVIEW: TOMMY TUNE CHARMS AUDIENCE IN HACKETTSTOWN SHOW

Sheila-current3By Sheila Abrams

If he weren’t such a likable fellow, one might confuse Broadway legend Tommy Tune with Dorian Gray. Like Oscar Wilde’s character who doesn’t age, Tune, at 73, looks, except for some gray hair, pretty much the way he did 40 years ago. (Dorian Gray, not such a likeable fellow, had a satanic portrait aging in the attic.) At 6-foot-5, Tune is limber and sure-footed and can still tap dance like a dream.

He appeared last Saturday in two sold-out performances at the Sitnik Theatre on the campus of Centenary College in Hackettstown, presenting Steps in Time; a Broadway Biography in Song and Dance. The event launched a week of dance events culminating this coming weekend with performances by three top New Jersey-based dance companies.

The mood of the show was so relaxed, so conversational, that one wondered how scripted it was. In any case, it certainly made it very pleasant. Done in 90 minutes without intermission, it seemed to go by in a flash.

Tune, a winner of 9 Tony awards, for performing, choreographing and directing in some of Broadway’s most memorable musicals, meandered down memory lane in a most comfortable way. Backed up by the Manhattan Rhythm Kings and a small band, he studded his remembrances with songs and dances from Broadway and movies, with composers ranging from George Gershwin to Kurt Weill.

The Manhattan Rhythm Kings are a gifted trio who could doubtless carry a show by themselves. Brian Nalepk (who also plays bass in the band), Hal Shane and Scott Leiendecker don’t look like typical chorus boys, but they sing and dance wonderfully, as demonstrated by the fact that they keep up with Tune.

The show was dedicated to the “late, great Charles ‘Honi’ Coles,” with whom Tune starred in the hit musical, My One and Only, which also starred Twiggy. Coles, a tapper known for his high-speed stepping, was a strong influence on Tune. If one listens to Tune’s dancing as well as looking at it (which one should always do with tapping), one can hear that the way his feet hit to floor is almost melodic.

A few years ago, when a famous Russian ballet dancer appeared in a classical role at a fairly advanced age (old enough for Medicare but still younger than Tune is now), a particularly acerbic critic said that, rather than an artistic event, it was a medical one.

Not the case with Tommy Tune. He is the consummate entertainer and, for dance connoisseurs, a consummate dancer. What a wonderful show!