In 1959, Van Dyke landed a small part in the Broadway comedy review Girls Against the Boys. The show only lasted two weeks, and he soon moved on to another production. Along with Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly, Van Dyke was cast in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, which made its Broadway debut in 1960. The musical proved to a big hit, and it brought Van Dyke his one and only Tony Award win in 1961, for his supporting role. Not long after, his career took off.
I was an alcoholic for about twenty-five years. In the Fifties and Sixties, everybody had their martini, everybody smoked incessantly. The funny thing is that all through my twenties and early thirties I didn't drink at all. Then we moved to a neighborhood full of young families with the same age kids and everyone drank heavily, there were big parties every night. I would go to work with terrible hangovers which if you're dancing is really hard. I was in deep trouble, you get suicidal and think you just can't go on. I had suicidal feelings, it was just terrible. But then suddenly, like a blessing, the drink started not to taste good. I would feel a little dizzy and a little nauseous and I wasn't getting the click. Today I wouldn't want a drink for anything. But I do occasionally think of taking a nice drag. I've been on this gum for ten years and it's just as addictive but at least it's not hurting my lungs. (2013)
In November 1959, Van Dyke made his Broadway debut in The Girls Against the Boys. He then played the lead role of Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie, which ran from April 14, 1960, to October 7, 1961. In a May 2011 interview with Rachael Ray, Van Dyke said that when he auditioned for a smaller part in the show he had no experience as a dancer, and that after he sang his audition song he did an impromptu soft-shoe out of sheer nervousness. Gower Champion, the show's director and choreographer, was watching, and promptly went up on stage to inform Van Dyke he had the lead. An astonished Van Dyke protested that he could not dance, to which Champion replied: "We'll teach you". That musical won four Tony awards including Van Dyke's Best Featured Actor Tony, in 1961. In 1980, Van Dyke appeared as the title role in the first Broadway revival of The Music Man.