Off-Off Broadway: Tommy Tune in Japan

Director Tommy Tune with members of the Takarazuka Revue during rehearsals of "Grand Hotel" in Tokyo.

CBS News

Now a story from way, WAY Off-Broadway. Mo Rocca chronicles Tommy Tune's journey from Texas -- to the other side of the world: 

With a name like Tommy Tune, the man was born to dance. "What else am I gonna do?" he laughed.

And he had a sense of humor about his height. When asked how tall he was, he'd say, "5'18" and a half. It sounded shorter!"

If you're wondering, that comes to six foot six-and-a-half inches.

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Tommy Tune and Twiggy in "My One and Only" (1983).

Martha Swope/NYPL, Billy Rose Theatre Division

Tune earned the first of 10 Tony Awards in 1974, and would go on to direct and choreograph some of the best-loved musicals of the last half-century.

It was his idea to revisit the wit and wisdom of Will Rogers in a Vegas-style revue, and to celebrate the songs of Gershwin in "My One and Only." He starred in that show alongside British model and actress Twiggy.

Born in Wichita Falls, Texas, Thomas James Tune started dancing at the age of five. While in high school, he saw a certain show by Rodgers and Hammerstein, the kind of show he'd never seen before.

"I didn't know what 'The King and I' was," Tune said. "And then, they not only acted and made you laugh and cry, but they'd sing, and when they couldn't sing anymore they would dance! And there was all of it all together. And I went, 'That's it! That's what I was looking for and I didn't know that it existed."

Tune had discovered musical theater. And throughout his career, he's made it his mission to deliver Broadway to people wherever they live. 

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Tommy Tune.

CBS News

He said he's always loved touring. "I love it. If you were a A-list dancer on Broadway you never took a national tour. I don't care where I'm working. And I want people to know about Broadway. You don't have to come to New York. We're bringing it to you. 

"Carol Channing taught me about touring. And these were her exact words: 'Tommy Tune, if it is your desire to pursue a career in the theatrical arts, you must tour your shows through the capitals of the world.' And I said, 'Name one.' And she said, 'Minneapolis!'"

Or the capital of Japan -- Tokyo -- where Tune certainly stands out in a crowd.

He was in Japan in the 1990s while touring in "My One and Only" when he was asked by the Takarazuka Revue, a 100-year-old, all-female theater troupe, to direct his musical, "Grand Hotel."

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The all-female Takarazuka Revue's production of the musical "Grand Hotel."

Takarazuka Revue

"When they came to you and said, 'We want to do an all-girl version of 'Grand Hotel,' did you think, 'This is an exciting challenge'?" asked Rocca.

"Well, yes," Tune said. "My whole thing is, if you're good enough, anybody can play any part. It doesn't matter. That's the magic of the theater."

The revue was founded by railroad and department store magnate Ichizo Kobayashi to draw tourists to the city of Takarazuka, where the theater was based.

Today, the company tours around Japan and the world.  

In a given year, Takarazuka productions attract about three million patrons," said the troupe's president, Tomotsugu Ogawa. "Our grand theatres have been sold out for the last few years."

Around 1,000 young women a year audition for 40 spots in the Takarazuka Music School, where they learn how to sing, dance and act -- and in some cases to act like a man.

Rocca asked actress Ryo Tamaki, "Did you go into this wanting to play male roles?"

"Yes, I did want to play men," she replied. "I really wanted to play male roles. I simply thought it'd be more fun."

Tamaki, Reika Manaki and Rurika Miya starred in a recent production of "Grand Hotel" directed by Tune.

"In Takarazuka, men are the stars and dominate the limelight, so I wanted to be one," said Miya.

Manaki said, "I played a male until my third year with the company. But it proved difficult for me. And I realized I enjoyed playing female roles, so I switched."

This revival reunited 78-year-old Tune with veteran director Keiji Okada. "We could've been in vaudeville together," Tune joked.

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Tommy Tune directing "Grand Hotel" in Japan.

CBS News

"Our staff, and of course, all of our performers, are so in awe with Tommy, it's like we're believers in the Church of Tommy," said Okada.

"Being able to work with someone of Tommy Tune's caliber is one of the great honors of my life." said Ryo Tamaki.

Rurika Miya described Tunes words as magical: "The sensitivity of his direction is amazing."

Rocca said, "Talking with the different people of Takarazuka, all of them speak so glowingly of you. Not just about your talent, but also your kindness and your mentorship."

"Well, the magic ingredient, I learned long ago, in what we do, the magic ingredient is love," Tune replied. "And that sounds corny, but if you go about it just to get it done and to get it perfect and all, you miss something. You have to infuse every moment of it with love."

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Tommy Tune with members of the Takarazuka Revue.

CBS News

And love is a feeling that needs no translation.

Rocca asked, "Could you ever have imagined, growing up in Texas, all the things that have happened in your career, including this?"

"My dream was to dance in the chorus of a Broadway musical," Tune said. "I went to the audition and I got the job. So my dream came true my first day in New York; I got in the chorus of a Broadway show. Everything else that has happened has been gravy!"

         
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