“I had never danced or sang or acted,” Van Dyke recalled. “I just went up on stage and sang a little of a Ray Bolger song, and he gave me the part on the spot. The choreographers I had knew what I could do and couldn't do. He just taught me. He would give me a move and see if I could do it.”
Van Dyke was in his 30s when he won a Tony for “Birdie.”
“I was scared stiff opening night, and I was a bit wooden, and the reviews said I was adequate,” he said. “Once I started to relax and enjoy myself, I enjoyed it a lot.”
And perhaps that's the secret to why people smile watching him. To prove it, watch what he is most famous for: the black-and-white classic TV comedy “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (1961-66).
“All of us agree that the five years on ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show' were the most fun we ever had,” Van Dyke said.