Reinking and Vereen Together Again for PBS Taping of Fosse, Aug. 17-18

By Kenneth Jones
17 Aug 2001

Ann Reinking and Ben Vereen.
Ann Reinking and Ben Vereen.

Fosse's days on Broadway are numbered, but the Tony Award-winning musical is being preserved on video by PBS for a future "Great Performances" broadcast.

Fosse's days on Broadway are numbered, but the Tony Award-winning musical is being preserved on video by PBS for a future "Great Performances" broadcast.

Ben Vereen, who stepped into the show earlier this year and continues until the Aug. 25 close, will be joined for three performances only by co director and co-choreographer Ann Reinking, Aug. 17-18.

"Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, MO," a number cut from the show in the last year, will be re-inserted for the taping at the Broadhurst Theatre. Vereen and Reinking will sing "Bye Bye Blackbird" as a duet. The PBS broadcast will be part of the "Great Performances" "Dance in America" series.



The revue that celebrates the dances created by the late Broadway and film director-choreographer Bob Fosse will have played 1,100 performances and 22 previews by the time it closes. Richard Maltby Jr. co-directed with Reinking. The show won the 1999 Best Musical Tony Award and has gone 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 became "Mr. Bojangles," for example).

Fosse tickets range $35-$85. For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.

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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, 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.

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 earlier this year, and recreates the work for the summer.

"I thought he was terribly funny in [Fosse's] 'Dancin' Dan,'" Reinking told Playbill On-Line after seeing Vereen play the rehearsals and then the show in January 2001. "Every time he did it, it would crack me up. 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 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 earlier this year, for brief stints.

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Vereen heads 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.