EFX Gets a TUNE-up!
As a kid we ate this confection at Christmas time called Nirvanna. It was nothing more than a white candy, filled with sugar, harmless stuff, and not very filling, which is sort of like EFX. Many on the Web know this show's title as it opened at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas a number of years ago starring Michael Crawford who was then replaced by teeny-bopper '70's heart throb David Cassidy. The thing about EFX that I think is misunderstood is that this show is not a musical, although it has some elements of a traditional musical; the one thing it doesn't have is a book, therefore, no story line. Like the candy, the sum of its parts pretty much adds up to a harmless enjoyment. If you take the show as a variety show rather than a musical, you'll come away satisfied though, especially since Tommy Tune is now starring.
Tommy debuted Friday evening in the 45 million dollar special effects extravaganza with much publicity in the city of Las Vegas. Newspapers had stories, television sets showed snippets of the great showman and even the Mayor proclaimed the day as "Tommy Tune Day". And Tommy Tune is great, no question about it. For those of us who've been around during the time of Fosse, Bennett, Robbins, and a few other choreographers, Tune's name is right up there. It seems like I never really thought about his career, more just taking it for granted, but my theater going has been Tuned for years.
One of the early Broadway musicals I saw was Seesaw starring Michele Lee and Tommy. His number "It's Not Where You Start" is pretty much theater history. Not only did he perform, but he also co-choreographed with Grover Dale and Bob Avian. From 1973 on, Tommy conquered Broadway and Off Broadway. His shows are as numerous as the awards he has received. Baker Street, A Joyful Noise, How Now Dow Jones were the chorus work. The Club, Cloud 9, A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine, Nine, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Grand Hotel were the choreographic/directing works. And My One And Only in which he starred and co-choreographed with Thommie Walsh....and I've probably forgotten one or two.
Tune is supposedly 59, but you'd never know it by looking at him on stage. He looks like he's 35 and having the time of his life. He taps effortlessly, his singing voice has a nice quality to it and has a bigger range than I imagined. His rendition of "Tonight" during the Houdini seance scene was particulary moving.
The special effects in the show are dazzling, some costing more than a million dollars to create. There are fire eating dragons, a 3-D film sequence, flying saucers, time machines and other diversions of imagination inlcuding a high flying trapeze group. Tune performs some of the daring Houdini escape numbers which look dangerous but to Tommy the only dangerous thing would be "walking through Central Park at night whistling a show tune."
The show has been altered somewhat from the Crawford and Cassidy presentations to allow Tommy to strut his stuff and indeed he does. There is a very clever tap number which reverberates throughout the theater and the finale has some real Broadway razzle-dazzle. His costumes are almost Halston-Liza with the glitz and glitter but this is Vegas and not Broadway. He's 6 foot 6 ½ inches of talent. In short, no pun intended, Tommy Tune is Mr. Broadway and the MGM's got him. And it's a show you should see, even if you are not into spectacle and computerized special effects as it's just a marvel to see talented Tommy Tune.
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