ON THE ROAD -- July 1998
In 1992 when Ann Reinking choreographed a production of Chicago for the now defunct Long Beach Civic Light Opera, she never thought that it would be a preamble to her current role as a keeper of the flame for Bob Fosse, the director and choreographer of the 1975 John Kander-Fred Ebb musical, who was her mentor and one-time lover.
Four years later, of course, a Broadway revival, starring Bebe Neuwirth and Reinking (who also choreographed), became -- and continues to be -- a sensation, winning Tony Awards for both and setting up Reinking, along with director Walter Bobbie, as the custodian of the many touring productions that are now beginning to cover the globe, including two which are criss-crossing the country. (Chicago I, the Roxie Company, hits Seattle, Costa Mesa, Portland and Tempe this month, while Chicago II, the Velma Company, plays the Ahmanson and the Shubert, both in Los Angeles, in July.)
On top of sharing the responsibility of casting and choreographing all the companies, Reinking has just signed as co-director (with Richard Maltby) and co-choreographer (with Chet Walker) for Fosse: A Celebration of Song and Dance, a new Broadway-bound revue of the late director's musical numbers, which will open in Toronto in July at the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts, followed by engagements in Boston and Los Angeles.
Reinking also finds time to continue in her role as artistic director of The Broadway Theatre Project, a Tampa-based organization that enables professionals to nurture gifted young people in stagecraft, and she will also be choreographing a revival of Pal Joey for Drabinksy's Livent for the 1999 season.
While there seems to be no stopping the proliferation of Chicago companies, Reinking says that she is not worried that her professional career stands to be eclipsed by her former mentor. "It's a privilege," she says. "Now, with 'The Fosse Project,' to become acquainted with Bob's early work at such close range. People forget that the same man who did Star 80 and All that Jazz also did Pardon Me Miss But I've Never Been Kissed. I just want to keep my mind free of any pre-conceived notions and stereotypical ideas of what makes a good dancer for his work. I'm used to things not coming in the packages you expect."
Indeed, Reinking sees her work in musical theatre, and particularly as it pertains to the Fosse legacy, as the fulfillment of an artistic and moral responsibility. "Theatre, where dance is involved, is still a hands-on profession," she explains. "There's an unspoken law that you pass it on. It's something you can't learn in a book; you can't even learn it off of a video. You need to feel that human touch where it's concerned. Feel it and learn it. I find there's something comforting in that."
Asked whether she feels that Fosse is somehow present in the current explosion of appreciation of his work, Reinking smiles softly and replies, "I think he's been there with us. From the beginning, it's been this pure effort just to do good work, which is what Bob was all about. Then it just blossomed into this wonderful thing. Now I don't sleep much."