Tommy (Thomas James) Tune was born in Texas to oil rig worker, horse trainer and restaurateur Jim Tune and Eva Mae Clark. He attended Lamar High School in Houston and the Methodist-affiliated Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas. Tommy Tune had an interest in dance and ballet as a youngster. He produced theatrical dramas and comedies in the family's Wichita Falls garage. His interest in dance was crushed in high school when he reached six feet, six inches tall; he knew he could not have a classical dance career at this height, so he concentrated on the theater. He studied dance under Patsy Swayze in Houston. He also studied dance with Kit Andree in Boulder, Colorado. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from the University of Texas at Austin in 1962 and his Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Houston. Before leaving Texas in the 1960's for a Broadway career in New York, he worked with Mary Highsmith, mother of crime novelist Patricia Highsmith, at the Point Summer Theatre. In a letter to her daughter, Highsmith referred to Tommy as her "adopted boy" whom she called "Romano." He later praised Highsmith for helping him develop his talents: "She was an opening for me; she opened a little bit of my tight fabric so that I might peer through."
His luck brightened on his first day in New York when he received a job with the Broadway musical Irma La Douce. In February of 1965, Tommy Tune made his New York debut as a chorus dancer in Baker Street. This followed with roles in A Joyful Noise, with dances by Michael Bennett, and a solo in How Now Dow Jones? Although his career was off to a great start in New York, Tune moved to Hollywood in 1969 for a role in Hello Dolly! While in California, he was a regular on Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers. In 1971, he was cast in the film version of The Boyfriend with Twiggy. While filming in London, he realized that Twiggy was his perfect dance partner but the two did not appear together again until 1983 in My One and Only. Upon returning from London, he returned to New York to star in Seesaw, a performance that won him his first Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actor in a Musical. His collaboration with director Peter Masterson and choreographer Thomie Walsh on The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas earned him another Tony Award in 1978 for Best Director of a Musical. Tommy Tune's success continued in New York when he directed A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine in 1980. This won him two more Tonys, one for Best Director of a Musical and one for Best Choreographer of a Musical, and a 1979-80 Drama Desk accolade for Best Choreography and Best Staging of a Musical.
The '80s also saw a barrage of success for Tommy Tune as he received five Tonys, two Drama Desk Awards and an Obie Award for his direction and choreography of Cloud Nine. He received a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his 1983 reunion with Twiggy in My One and Only. In 1983, he directed Steppin' Out, which won him the 1984 Dance Magazine Award.
In 1999, he made his Las Vegas debut as the star of EFX at the MGM Grand Las Vegas. Tune staged an elaborate musical entitled Paparazzi for the Holland America Line cruise ship the Oosterdam in 2003. He works often with The Manhattan Rhythm Kings, for example touring in a Big Band revue entitled Song and Dance Man and White Tie and Tails. Tune has been performing in his musical revue, Steps in Time: A Broadway Biography in Song and Dance and continuing in various venues from Bethesda, Maryland in January 2009 to California in February 2009.
In 2013, he appeared as Argyle Austero in the revived fourth season of Arrested Development on Netflix. In 2015, he made a return to the New York stage as a featured performer in City Center's popular series Encores! He was featured in two numbers in LADY, BE GOOD; his first act number was the Gershwin standard "Fascinatin' Rhythm.
In July, 2015, the Chicago Human Rhythm Project presented the finale of their 25th Anniversary season by honoring ten-time Tony Award winner, dance legend Tommy Tune with their JUBA award and featured Tommy performing his one man show "Taps, Tunes and Tall Tunes." Mr. Tune raised over $200,000.00 for their organization!
The Tommy Tune Awards, presented annually by Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) honor excellence in high school musical theatre in Houston. The current home of the Tommy Tune Awards is the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in Houston, Texas.