The popular star of “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss?” has trod the boards in everything from Garry Marshall’s Wrong Turn at Lungfish in 1993 to The Producers, in which he starred as Max Bialystock in 2006. Now Tony Danza is looking to solidify his status as a bona fide song-and-dance man in Jason Robert Brown and Andrew Bergman’s Honeymoon in Vegas, a musical based on Bergman’s film. Danza plays con man Tommy Korman (James Caan in the movie) and also serves as a producer on the show, which originated at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse and is now on Broadway.
How’s your day going?
I’m great. I’m getting a pedicure. Since we’re not teching anymore, we have a little time to ourselves. When we’re rehearsing all day and then doing the show at night, it doesn’t give you much time—even to sleep!
How did you get involved in Honeymoon in Vegas?
Jason Robert Brown wanted to come over and meet me. So I said I’d love to, and he came. Immediately I thought to myself, “Gee, charm’s not going to work with this guy!” I thought I was going to have to sing and prove my worth, but he said no—he knew my voice because I had made an album. He said, “I want to play you something,” and he played this verse from “Out of the Sun” [singing]: “When we’re young, we think that we’re invincible,” and I just fell in love with it.
Were you a fan of the movie?
I knew the movie, and Jimmy Caan’s a friend of mine. It’s not my favorite movie. I hate to say that. What’s interesting is that, evidently, when Andrew wrote it, he thought it was a musical.
You’re also a producer on the show. How did that come about?
Well, when they want you, you can get a lot of stuff! [Laughs] I’ll be honest with you—I’m invested in the show, as well, financially. I signed on to help and to be a partner. And we’re here! And I swear, I just feel like we’re sitting on a hit and pretty soon it’s going to explode, and then it’ll be the talk of the town.
You play a gangster in Honeymoon…
…for want of a better name. He’s sort of a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy.
Right. Do you have any favorite stage or film gangsters?
In Woody Allen’s play Bullets Over Broadway, the best part was the guy who played the gangster, Cheech [Nick Cordero]. He was good. I also think of The Music Man.
Do you remember the first show you ever performed onstage?
The first time I really was onstage was in 10th grade at Malverne High School on Long Island, and I was in the ensemble of Kiss Me, Kate. “Too Darn Hot” was our big number. I was a dancer in the show. And then they did Bye Bye Birdie, and I was Arthur. My senior year, I played Luther Billis in South Pacific.
You have a quite a few dance numbers in Honeymoon. When did you learn how to tap dance?
In “Taxi,” we did an episode called “Fantasy Borough,” and everybody had a fantasy. My character’s fantasy was to be smart, but Marilu Henner’s was to be a Broadway star. So we did “Lullaby of Broadway,” and we went around the big column in the garage, and when we came out the other side, we were in top hats and tails, and we pretended to tap dance. I said, “Gee I should learn how to do that!” I got so crazy with it that I used to drive around with a piece of plywood in my car, and I would whip it out and say to my friends, “Watch this step!”
Do you have any preshow rituals?
When I get to the theatre, I usually put my tap shoes on. I go out onto the deck, tap a little bit, and then I stretch considerably. Sometimes I get lucky and the piano player and some of the guys from the band come out, and we actually do a song of some sort and sometimes even tap dance in the middle of it. You got all sorts of people with crazy talent who are dying to perform. It’s a really great time right before the show.
What was the last thing you saw onstage that you really loved?
I really liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time—I contrast with it with our show, because if you’re a once-a-year or twice-a-year Broadway person, I’m not sure you want to go see that. But if you’re somebody that goes to Broadway on a regular basis, you have to see it! It was terrific. But if you want entertainment and some laughs, come see my show!
If you could only bring three things on a desert island, what would they be?
You’re gonna get me in trouble! I’d take the New York Times; I’d have to have it delivered, obviously. My ukulele for sure, absolutely my ukulele. And I’d like companionship, I guess!