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Tyne Daly Finally Takes On a Long-Desired Dream Role in Dear World

Daly will return to the stage in a one-night-only concert of Jerry Herman's 1969 musical.

"I was supposed to have a sabbatical year," Tyne Daly says. "But the best-laid plans. Right now, I'm in Atlanta, Georgia, shooting a film."

Daly, the Tony- and Emmy-winning veteran of stage and screen, is mum on the details, except to note that it's a "franchise" film. But it's already public information that she's adding the latest Spider-Man movie, Homecoming, to her extensive résumé (Daly's actual role, however, is still a secret).

In her downtime away from the set, Daly, who was last seen on Broadway in the 2015 musical It Shoulda Been You, is gearing up for her latest theatrical gig, playing Countess Aurelia in a one-night concert of Jerry Herman's 1969 flop Dear World. The production will play California's Valley Performing Arts Center on September 30.

Aurelia has been Daly's longtime dream role, and it's another opportunity for her to follow in the footsteps of fellow theater icon Angela Lansbury, who originated the part on Broadway. (Arthur Laurents guided both Lansbury and Daly to Tony Awards for the role of Rose in two different productions of his musical Gypsy.) Until now, however, it had always been met with opposition. But things always have a funny way of working out, even if it means giving up a long hoped for vacation to make it happen.

Tyne Daly gets ready to star in a one-night-only concert of the Jerry Herman musical Dear World.
(© David Gordon)

What made you want to take a sabbatical year?
Because I've been working for more than half a century and I've never had a sabbatical year. I hadn't spent any time in Paris since I was seven, and I thought, maybe at seventy, it's time to go back. I wanted to take a real break to refresh my spirit, and circumstances tripped me up like they often do. But every moment that I'm working this sabbatical year I'm going to tack onto the end. I love to work, but I also needed a break.

Tell me about your association with Dear World. It's not a show that's seen very often.
I've listened to it. I listened to Miss Lansbury. I also gave a rather large chunk of money for them to redevelop it at Sundance with Maureen McGovern. And I know that Betty Buckley took a stab at it in London a couple of seasons ago. I think it's a really worthy score, and in modern times, this story is getting more and more fun to tell. Arthur Laurents has always called Gypsy a musical fable. If Gypsy is a musical fable about show business, I believe that Dear World is a musical fable about corporate greed. I like musicals that have joy and fun in them, but also have a little something on their minds.

How did you discover the show to begin with?
That's a good question. David Galligan, who helped me put my cabarets together, suggested the song "Each Tomorrow Morning" to me when I started to work on those songs for a cabaret for Michael Feinstein. I knew the play The Mad Woman of Challiot from college, but I hadn't been on the scene in New York when Dear World [the musical adaptation] was on Broadway.

With Gypsy, I realized I made a terrible tactical error, picking the best role ever to start with. That ended up working out very well, but finding another vehicle was hard. I suggested Dear World quite early on and Jerry [Herman] wouldn't have it. He wasn't interested in me as Aurelia.

Chip Zien, Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, and Michael X. Martin in the 2015 Broadway production of the musical It Shoulda Been You at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
(© Joan Marcus)

What changed his mind?
Last year, when we did It Shoulda Been You, which I love dearly, [producer] Suzi Dietz came and saw it, and we talked afterwards and she said, "What's on your list?" What's been on my list for two decades now is Dear World, but I haven't been able to talk Jerry Herman into it. She's the one who persuaded him that maybe I should. Now that I'm seventy, I have a shot at it. This is one of those parts I was actually getting better for, in terms of where Aurelia should be in her age. This is a one-off concert, sort of what they do with Encores! We'll see how it goes over.

Have you spoken to Angela Lansbury?
I have not, although she said nice things to me when I sang it for her birthday. But that was a long time ago. Everything is a long time ago now. She's certainly a performer I admire a great deal. I've tracked her around a little bit. I did Gypsy [after her]. But then again, every time you sing a musical that's not brand-new, you're compared to somebody. To be compared to Merman or Angela Lansbury is not a bad deal. The fun of doing a new musical, or a new play, is there's nobody they can compare you to. You're saying, "This is how it goes." And that has another kind of joy in it.

After this, do you think you'll finally get back to Paris for your full sabbatical year?
I did the month of April in France, which was great. And then in May, there were family things that happened that necessitated my being home. Then this movie came up, which was fortuitous. It was a fun thing and my children said, "It's a franchise movie, mom. Do it!" When you get to a certain stage you get to do what you want to, which is amazing. Then I intend to go back to New York and see a lot of plays, and visit my children, well, my grown-ups. There are three grown-ups and all of them have offspring. And also Mister [Terrence] McNally has got some things in mind that have been cooking over the summer, so I'm not nervous about filling my time. It's a full life.

Frederick Weller and Tyne Daly in the 2014 Broadway production of Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons.
(© Joan Marcus)