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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,

"Fosse."

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

are from.

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

Fosse, Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44, 800-432-7250.

Top Of Page
On Broadway

The key: HHHH Don’t miss; HHH You won’t feel cheated;

HH Maybe you should have stayed home; H Don’t blame us.

Annie Get Your Gun, Marquis, Broadway at 46. Ticketmaster.

Bernadette Peters. Previews.

Art HH Royale, 242 West 45. Tony winner for best

play.

Band in Berlin, Helen Hayes, 240 West 44. Previews.

Beauty and the Beast HHH Palace, Broadway at 47.

Ticketmaster.

Cabaret HHH Studio 54, 254 West 54, 800-432-7250.

Tony’s best in its new home.

Cats HHH Winter Garden, 50 & Broadway.

Chicago HHHH Shubert, 225 West 44.

Death of a Salesman HHHH O’Neill, 230 West 49.

Brian Dennehy and Elizabeth Franz.

Electra HHHH Barrymore, 243 West 47. Zoe Wanamaker

as seen at McCarter. To March 21.

Footloose HH Richard Rodgers, 226 West 46. Ticketmaster.

Jekyll & Hyde HH Plymouth, 236 West 45.

Les Miserables HHH Imperial, 249 West 45.

Miss Saigon HHHH Broadway, 53 and Broadway.

Night Must Fall, Lyceum, East 45. By Emlyn Williams.

Not About Nightingales, Circle in the Square, 50 and Broadway.

Tennessee Williams. Previews. To June 27.

Parade HH Vivian Beaumont, 150 West 65. To February

28.

Ragtime HHHH Ford Center, 42 between 7 and 8

Avenue. Ticketmaster. Winner of four Tonys.

Rent HHHH Nederlander, 208 West 41. Ticketmaster.

Side Man HHH Golden, 252 West 45. With Christian

Slater.

Smokey Joe’s Cafe HH Virginia, 245 West 52.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane HH Walter Kerr, 219

West 48.

The Blue Room H Cort, 138 West 48. Nicole Kidman

and Iain Glen.

The Lion in Winter, Roundabout, 1530 Broadway, 212-719-1300.

The Lion King HHHH New Amsterdam, Broadway &

42, 212-307-4747.

The Phantom of the Opera HHH Majestic, 247 West

44.

The Scarlet Pimpernel HHH Minskoff, 200 West

45. Ticketmaster.

The Sound of Music HH Martin Beck, 302 West 45.

Titanic HHHH Lunt-Fontanne, 205 West 46. Ticketmaster.

Better than the movie.

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Ambassador, 219 West

49.

Top Of Page
Off-Broadway

A Couple of Blaguards, Triad, 158 West 72. By Frank McCourt

and Malachy McCourt.

American Passenger, Kraine, 85 East 4, 212-598-4004.

Ashes to Ashes HH Gramercy, 127 East 23. Ticketmaster.

By Harold Pinter.

Beautiful Thing, Cherry Lane, 38 Commerce.

Betty’s Summer Vacation, Playwrights Horizons, 416 West

42.

Blue Man Group HHHH Astor Place, 434 Lafayette,

212-254-4370.

Captains Courageous, City Center Stage, 131 West 55. 212-581-1212.

Collected Stories HHH Lucille Lortel, 121 Christopher.

Uta Hagen. To February 28.

Daddy’s Girl, Duplex, 61 Christopher, 212-255-5438. To

April 30.

De La Guarda H Daryl Roth, 20 Union Square East.

Dream City Twosome, Irish Arts, 553 West 51, 212-581-4125.

Far East HHH Newhouse, 150 West 65. A.R. Gurney’s

new play.

Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act! Stardust, Broadway

& 51.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch HHH Jane Street Theater,

113 Jane.

High Life HHH Primary Stages, 354 West 45, 212-333-4052.

Human Resources, Kaufman, 534 West 42, 212-279-4200.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change HH, Westside,

407 West 43.

James Naughton: Street of Dreams HH Promenade, Broadway

at 76. To April 11.

Killer Joe, Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam.

Lake Hollywood, Signature, 555 West 42, 212-244-7529.

By John Guare.

Late Nite Catechism, St. Luke’s Church, 308 West 46, 800-432-7250.

Little By Little, Theater at St. Peter’s Church, Lexington

at 54, 212-935-5820. To February 28.

Oh Coward! H Irish Repertory, 132 West 22, 212-727-2737.

Over the River & Through the Woods HH Houseman,

450 West 42.

Richard Foreman’s Paradise Hotel, Ontological Hysteric,

131 East 10, 212-533-4650.

Rollin’ on the T.O.B.A. HHH 47th Street, 304 West

47.

Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know HHH, Triad,

158 West 72, 212-799-4599.

Snakebit HHH, Century Center, 111 East 15.

Stomp HHHH Orpheum, Second Avenue at 8. Ticketmaster.

Symphonie Fantastique, Here Arts, 145 Avenue of Americas,

212-647-0202. Underwater puppets of Basil Twist.

The Chemistry of Change, Theater Four, 424 West 55.

The Eros Trilogy HH Vineyard, 108 East 15. Betty

Buckley.

The Hothouse, Atlantic, 336 West 20. By Harold Pinter.

To March 14.

The Misanthrope, Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13. To

March 7.

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told HHH Minetta Lane.

Ticketmaster. Paul Rudnick.

The Mystery of Irma Vep HHH Westside, 407 West 43.

This Is Our Youth HHH Fairbanks, 432 West 42. To

February 28.

Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding HHH St. Luke’s Church, 308

West 46.

Wit HHHH Union Square, 100 East 17. With Kathleen

Chalfant. Ticketmaster.

— Simon Saltzman

Ticket Numbers

Unless otherwise noted, all Broadway reservations can be made

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,

and dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing

arts hotline operated by the Theater Development Fund. The TKTS same-day,

half-price ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway & 47th) is open

daily, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

for Wednesday and Saturday matinees; and noon to closing for Sunday

matinees. The lower Manhattan booth, on the Mezzanine at 2 World Trade

Center, is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday

11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; closed Sunday. Cash or travelers’ checks only.

Visit TKTS at: www.tdf.org.

A Broadway ticket line at 212-302-4111 gives information on Broadway,

selected Off-Broadway, and touring shows in other cities; calls can

be transferred to a ticket agent. Sponsored by Continental Airlines

and the New York Times.


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