Fosse: A Celebration in Song and Dance began its pre-Broadway tryout July 16 at Livent Inc.'s Ford Center for the Performing Arts in Toronto.
The song-and-dance revue collects an entire evening's worth of dance standards from the man who's distinctive dance style was showcased in Sweet Charity, Damn Yankees, Chicago, Dancin', the film of Cabaret and All That Jazz, plus many other Broadway shows and films. Among the numbers in Fosse are five film numbers that have never been seen on stage.
Also on the production team is Ann Reinking, who won a Tony for choreographing Broadway's current Chicago revival "in the style of" Fosse. She serves as co-director and co-choreographer, helping Richard Maltby, Jr., and Chet Walker, respectively.
Reinking is obviously a Livent favorite, since she's already beeen tapped to choreograph the company's upcoming revival of Rodgers & Hart's Pal Joey. Other Reinking credits include acting in the Bye Bye Birdie national tour and starring on Broadway in the Fosse-directed Sweet Charity.
Fosse - A Celebration of Song and Dance, will run at Toronto's Ford Centre for the Performing Arts for six weeks, beginning July 16. It'll then go on to Boston's Colonial Theatre (Sept. 8-27) and Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre, Oct. 9-Dec. 6. The Daily News reported (Aug. 12) that the show has selected the Broadhurst Theatre for winter `99, but a Livent spokesperson Wayne Wolfe told Playbill On-Line (Aug. 12) that "nothing's been signed yet; there's no announcement." Weeks earlier, Wolfe said, "It will depend on how things go [in L.A.]. They may come directly to Broadway or they may pick up another date." Toronto tickets (C$42.50-$82.50) to Fosse are on sale at the Ford Centre box office and via the Livent Line, (416) 872-2222.
[So far, the show's plans are apparently not affected by Livent's financial troubles, which caused the company to suspend its co-founder Garth Drabinsky, pending an investigation of "irregularities" in the company's revenues and expenses.]
Featured in Fosse are recreations of such Fosse hits as "Life is Just A Bowl of Cherries," "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Steam Heat" and "If My Friends Could See Me Now." Film-based sequences include "Take Off With Us" (from All That Jazz, "Alley Dance" from My Sister Eileen, "Mein Herr" from Cabaret, and "Cool Hand Luke," originally performed on a 1967 Bob Hope TV special.
The show will have no narrative and be styled in a vein similar to Maltby's Ain't Misbehavin', in which music and dance drive the storyline. Gwen Verdon, star of Sweet Charity and The Pajama Game, serves as artistic advisor to Fosse, while Verdon and Fosse's real life daughter, Nicole Fosse, served as Ballet Mistress to the show's recently-completed, eight-week workshop in Toronto.
At a Feb. 24 preview of the show, producer Drabinsky told the invited press, "Fosse was one of a handful of musical theatre artists who put his recognizable stamp on everything he touched. We want to honour that and keep it alive." Added director Maltby, "Bob Fosse's original work had to be reconstructed. It's now on paper, all of the steps, how it's done, and then some. So this body of work now exists. That's an achievement in itself."
Walker stressed that the idea of the show is to give Fosse back to a generation that doesn't know his work, as well as to keep his work a part of the dance vocabulary forever.
At the Feb. 24 preview, it was history come to life as a group of hoofers took to the tiny Walter Carsen Centre stage with a crisp new version of Rich Man's Frug (from Sweet Charity) and Mr. Bojangles (from Dancin').
The black-and-white leotards, bowler hats and splayed arms and legs dazzled a tiny crowd of invited press and it was as if somewhere just offstage, Bob Fosse had to come to life and was snapping his fingers in time to the music.
The company did just two numbers and a bit, but that was enough to know that the 34 dancers had managed to soak in the archness, angles and attitude that exemplified Fosse's brand of choreography.
In addition to serving as co-director and co-choreographer for Fosse: A Celebration in Song and Dance, Ann Reinking will create the original choreographer and join playwright Terrence McNally, director Frank Galati and musical supervisor John Mauceri on Livent's upcoming "restoration" of the classic Rodgers and Hart musical, Pal Joey.
A first reading of that show will take place at Livent's Fifth Annual Summer Festival of New Works at York University this summer. A first, out-of-town production, in a city to be announced, is anticipated by the end of 1999.