Liliane Montevecchi gained more than a director and professional mentor when Tommy Tune cast her in the musical Nine seven years ago—she made a friend.
“We have a great feeling for each other,” says Montevecchi, now starring as the ballerina Grushinskaya in Tune’s new musical version of Grand Hotel. “Tommy sort of adopted me, because my mother now is dead and I don’t have a family anymore. It’s just a wonderful friend relationship with warmth and compassion and mutual admiration. He really cares.”
Even under the relentless pressure of delivering a multimillion-dollar musical, Tune maintains his sunny, easygoing disposition, according to Liliane. “Even if he has a ton of problems on his shoulders, he makes the actors feel that everything is roses. Everybody is complaining about this and that, but Tommy never does. Never! He has this dignity and is patient, patient, patient. I never met anybody quite like this.”
Montevecchi’s French accent remains as thick as Tune’s Texan drawl, so the director inserted an explanation that her character (played by Greta Garbo in the 1932 film) is a French ballerina with a Russian name. At Tune’s request, Montevecchi donned toe shoes for the role for the first time since she danced with Roland Petit’s Ballets de Paris 35 years ago.
The former Folies Bergeres star lives in Manhattan with an Italian screenwriter she identifies only as Claudio. “He lives half in Italy and half in New York, and we have a strange relationship, but it’s quite fun,” she says with a barking laugh. “He’s almost as tall as Tommy (who is 6’6”), and when I’m with Tommy and him, it’s just divine, like being between two columns. He’s beautiful to look at and a wonderful companion.”
Though she spends several months a year in Europe, Montevecchi declares, “New York is my home. I love the pacing of New York. I find it dirty and noisy, with holes everywhere, but it’s an exciting, exciting town. I love it! I shall remain here until the New Yorkers no longer love me.”