stage dive

James Franco and Tommy Tune Figure Out How to Work Cheap

A warm, disco-and-cocaine-scented wind has wafted up from the Sunshine State: Seems Tommy Tune, that towering, nine-time Tony-winning legend of Broadway, is in Miami developing a musical based on the rise and fall of Studio 54, apparently working with kids from the University of Miami. New York theatergoers have seen neither tie nor tail of Tune since Tommy Tune: White Tie and Tails opened (and apparently cursed) the Little Shubert in 2002. (The seventysomething actor-director-dancer-choreographer has, since then, been plenty active outside of Gotham.)

But the real news here, as far as I’m concerned, is that Tune’s developing a show with the assistance of college students. Makes sense: College theater students are a low-cost, high-enthusiasm labor source, most of whom still possess their natural hair and teeth. Why hold readings in New York with a bunch of sour old actor-pusses when you can harvest pure youth from the nation’s otherwise-tottering, increasingly irrelevant university system? (Take that, China!)

Consider, for example, James Franco, the perpetual graduate student and part-time Oscar-host-inee now ensconced at Yale, where he’s working toward a — I dunno, let’s say a dual doctorate in string theory and gender studies. After weeks of speculation, Franco’s confirmed that he’ll star with Nicole Kidman in next fall’s revival of the Tennessee Williams near-classic Sweet Bird of Youth. But that’s hardly the biggest news. After all, Franco’s made it clear he’ll show up for just about anything, and his curious performance-art approach to his career just keeps getting more interesting.

No, I’m still reeling from word that Franco is overseeing a Yale undergrad production tentatively titled James Franco Presents. Arriving in April, with the first tender shoots of spring, JFP will reportedly be some sort of parodic musical loosely based on Twilight. (It may also be an enormous hoax — the stuff about Franco using this show to wreak revenge on Breaking Dawn sounds delightful, but suspect. Still, I’m hoping like hell it’s at least pseudo-real. How else do I chisel an all-expenses-paid trip to New Haven out of my editors’ stony fists?)

Franco and Tune: Two impresarios, two slave-labor pioneers, too beautiful for this world. I salute them. If their vision holds, expect to see Julie Taymor killing Wesleyan freshmen by the dozen as she perfects the hammer-throwing effects for Thor: Turn Down the Ragnarok. Who says American universities can’t compete?

James Franco and Tommy Tune Figure Out How to Work Cheap