Fosse strutted out of the Broadway scene in 2001 and continues on tour, but the Tony Award-winning musical was preserved on video by PBS and will get its widest audience yet when it airs Jan. 23 on "Great Performances."
Ben Vereen, who stepped into the show intermittently in 2001 and was with the troupe when it closed Aug. 25 at the Broadhurst Theatre, was joined by co-director and co choreographer Ann Reinking, Aug. 17-18. Their summer 2001 pairing was taped for broadcast. The program that airs is called "From Broadway: Fosse," and represents a slightly revised version of the show. "Glory" and "Dancin' Dan" — highlights in the Broadway version — are not presented, for example.
"Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, MO," a number cut from Fosse in the last year of its run, was re-inserted for the taping. Reinking joins the ladies of the company for the classic deadpan number, "Big Spender." The PBS broadcast 9 PM (ET) Jan. 23 is part of the "Dance in America" arm of the "Great Performances" series. The DVD/VHS version of the show, which will include the cut numbers and interview segments, will be available from Image Entertainment Feb. 5.
The revue that celebrates the dances created by the late Broadway and film director-choreographer Bob Fosse played 1,100 performances and 22 previews and won the Best Musical Tony Award in 1999. Richard Maltby Jr. co-directed with Reinking. The show went through some alterations since its 1999 opening: Originally, a leading-player actress (Valarie Pettiford) made book-end appearances, opening the show with "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries" and performing numbers with the ensemble throughout. Vereen, a box office draw, took over that part, and the nature of some of the sequences changes (he sang the bookend "Bowl of Cherries" and became "Mr. Bojangles," for example, and got to reprise his Tony Award-winning role as the Leading Player in Pippin, dancing the "manson Trio"). One of the highlights of the Broadway show was the specialty number, "Steam Heat," from The Pajama Game. In the PBS production, taped at the Broadhurst, the song is performed by Meg Gillentine, Julio Monge and Josh Rhodes.
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Vereen was the first star name to play in the Tony Award winning revue, which was conceived to be a group piece rather than a star vehicle. Critics and audiences observed that when Vereen first stepped into the show Jan. 26, 2001, he brought some focus and personality to a hit that has been ensemble oriented since it debuted on Broadway in January 1999. A national touring company continues on the road into 2002.
Vereen, who won a Tony Award in director-choreographer Bob Fosse's Pippin and sang and danced in Fosse's film, "All That Jazz," recreated the "Glory" and "Manson Trio" numbers from Pippin in Fosse.
"He did bring his own wonderful element to the show, a real variety and another level. Another taste. Another feel. That's very important when you're doing an ensemble piece, that you give it a variety of levels so it doesn't get too homogenous," Reinking told Playbill On-Line."
Reinking continued, "There's just somethin' in him and that's what Bob recognized. Once a star... No matter what, there's something there, they give you something that's special. He's somebody who innately had something, a real gift. To see that gift nurtured by Bob and then by [Fosse artistic advisor] Gwen [Verdon], it's wonderful. It does give the show something. Showmanship!"
Reinking and Bebe Neuwirth also stepped into the show in 2001, for brief stints.
Vereen headed a cast of 32 dancers, all performing late director choreographer Fosse's great — and lesser-known — musical numbers from his stage, film and television hits.
In Pippin, Vereen sang "Magic to Do," a kind of signature song for the actor-dancer, but the tune was not interpolated into Fosse for his tenure (though there was talk of it). Vereen recently played Billy Flynn (singing "Razzle Dazzle") in the Fosse-style revival of Chicago, in Las Vegas. The actor-dancer made headlines when he survived a near-fatal accident and went on to appear in Broadway's Jelly's Last Jam. He also appeared in Broadway's original Jesus Christ Superstar and Grind, and the Madison Square Garden production of A Christmas Carol. His official website is at www.BenVereen.com.
Reinking starred in Fosse's "other" Broadway dance revue, Dancin', and recreated Fosse's style both starring in and choreographing the Tony Award-winning revival of Chicago.