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Broadway Review: `Fosse’
This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
February 24, 1999. All rights reserved.
Bob Fosse, the celebrated choreographer who won nine
Tony Awards, an Emmy Award, and the Academy Award for his direction
of the film "Cabaret," liked to put his dancers in black outfits,
cocked bowler hats, and white gloves. He also liked his dancers to
do unusual things with their fingers, heads, necks, torsos, and toes.
For more than 40 years (he died in 1987), Fosse infused more than
a dozen Broadway shows with his hot, cool, sassy style.
Without apology, Fosse replaced prevailing notions of idealized romance
and sentiment with insinuating sex and a serious attitude. He made
even the most average shows throb with sensuous vitality. For those
who find an overdose of the choreographer’s legacy just plain thrilling
(as I do), head for the Broadhurst Theater for the all-dancing show,
Interestingly, the Broadhurst is the same theater that was home in
1978 to "Dancin’," a not dissimilar celebration of the Fosse
canon. There are in fact many numbers, like "From the Edge,"
"Crunchy Granola Suite," "I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man,"
"Big Noise from Winnetka," "Mr. Bojangles" (poignantly
danced by Andy Blenkenbuehler and Sergio Trujillo), and the thrilling
full-company finale to Benny Goodman’s "Sing, Sing, Sing,"
that were originally created by Fosse for "Dancin’." Worth
the price of admission is the beguiling blond temptress Elizabeth
Parkinson, who flings herself wildly from one side of the stage to
the other for that number’s exciting trumpet solo section (sweetly
played by Glenn Drewes).
Whether or not you saw "Dancin’," the current homage is no
more or less duly Fosse-lized in three exuberantly danced acts (divided
by two intermissions). The 32 attractive, loose and limber dancers,
with many standouts, have been fully immersed in Fosse’s dance vocabulary.
Memory is funny, but I believe I was more receptive to the simplicity
of "Fosse" than I was to the more pretentiously staged "Dancin’."
I had no trouble finding a plethora of pleasurable moments in virtually
every one of the 30 numbers. They have been somewhat randomly selected,
without narration except for a few sung portions, but mainly taken
out of context from a dozen or so Fosse shows including "The Pajama
Game," "Damn Yankees," "Sweet Charity," and "Chicago"
(ironically playing right next door at the Shubert). Book-ended by
a terrific and testifying rendition of "Life Is Just a Bowl of
Cherries" (from "Big Deal") by star-billed Valarie Pettiford,
"Fosse" proceeds with no regard for either chronological order
or for our presumed lack of familiarity with the shows the numbers
Not quite as decadently effective as is the current revival of "Cabaret,"
"Mein Heir" (from the film version) appears more silly than
sinful. Nor does "Razzle Dazzle" (from "Chicago")
rise to the level of bitter satire achieved next door, even boasting
the elegant presence and suave dancing of Scott Wise in the company
of a bevy of feather fan dancers.
Nevertheless, a show-stopper like "Steam Heat" from "Pajama
Game," featuring a boiling cluster — Jane Lanier, Michael
Paternostro, and Alex Sanchez — leaves no doubt to its intent.
For real purpose there is the obligatory classic "Big Spender"
from "Sweet Charity," which has been given the prerequisite
line-up of sassily posed smart alecky dance-hall dames.
A synthesis like "Fosse’s World" and a number of beautifully
conceived "Transitions" that act as bridges between numbers,
offer the freshest look at the more abstract ideas in this genius’s
creations. Besides the elegantly spoof-ish "Rich Man’s Frug"
from "Sweet Charity," it is "Shoeless Joe from Hannibal,
Mo" from "Damn Yankees" that is as whole heartedly humorous
as Fosse ever got. And the acrobatic male dancers pitch, bat, and
bunt like pros.
More of an eccentric Broadway show stylist than say Michael Bennett,
Gower Champion, Jerome Robbins, and Michael Kidd, Fosse defined modern
attitudes and contemporary life in new and deliberately unconventional
way. Santo Loquasto, the show’s designer, has placed the danced activities
within a pair of arched prosceniums, a sprinkling of glitter, and
with an emphasis on gold, silver, and black reserved for "Sing,
Sing, Sing," as performed with an onstage band.
As co-choreographed and recreated by Ann Reinking and Chet Walker
and co-directed with Richard Maltby Jr., "Fosse" is also happily
more than a display its creator’s six signature postures: disjointed
angles, hunched backs and rounded shoulders, bowed legs and knock
knees, open hands, limp wrists, and swiveling derrieres. Yet you’ll
find them all in this lively and entertaining show. HHH
— Simon Saltzman
The key: HHHH Don’t miss; HHH You won’t feel cheated;
HH Maybe you should have stayed home; H Don’t blame us.
Bernadette Peters. Previews.
Tony’s best in its new home.
Brian Dennehy and Elizabeth Franz.
as seen at McCarter. To March 21.
Tennessee Williams. Previews. To June 27.
Avenue. Ticketmaster. Winner of four Tonys.
and Iain Glen.
Better than the movie.
and Malachy McCourt.
By Harold Pinter.
Uta Hagen. To February 28.
407 West 43.
at 76. To April 11.
By John Guare.
at 54, 212-935-5820. To February 28.
450 West 42.
131 East 10, 212-533-4650.
158 West 72, 212-799-4599.
212-647-0202. Underwater puppets of Basil Twist.
To March 14.
Ticketmaster. Paul Rudnick.
— Simon Saltzman
through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. For Ticketmaster
listings call 800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100.
For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music,
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