Tune, 76, is being cited for “outstanding dedication to theater and iconic achievements over the span of his more than 50 years in the business,” according to a Tony Awards statement.
He won his nine Tonys the hard way: in four different categories: Best Director of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Actor in a Musical and Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
The lanky Texan entered Broadway legend on March 17, 1962, the morning he arrived in New York, when he picked up a copy of Back Stage magazine, saw there was an audition for the national tour Irma La Douce that day, went to the audition, and got cast the same day.
Tune made his Broadway debut in 1965's Baker Street as "One of the Killers," and went on to dance in A Joyful Noise and How Now Dow Jones, becoming a protege of choreographer Michael Bennett, who featured Tune (and made him "associate choreographer" in the 1973 musical Seesaw. The show's big Act II number, "It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish," helped earn Tune his first Tony Award, as Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
He went on to win Tonys for A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine (for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography, shared with protege Thommie Walsh); Nine (Best Direction of a Musical); My One and Only (Best Actor in a Musical and Best Choreography, shared, again, with Thommie Walsh); Grand Hotel (Direction and Choreography), and The Will Rogers Follies (Direction and Choreography). Tune's last show to reach Broadway was the musical sequel Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public in 1994. He played several concert shows on and off Broadway, and appeared this past winter in the Encores! production of Lady, Be Good!.
Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing, and Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League, issued a joint statement saying, "It is our honor to present the legendary Tommy Tune with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding dedication to theatre and iconic achievements over the span of his more than 50 years in the business. He has succeeded in multiple facets of the industry – both on stage and off – and is a shining example of the magical experience that live performance brings. We are proud to celebrate his triumphs with the Lifetime Achievement honor this year."
Here are some of Playbill.com's video clips of Tune.