Livent's Fosse Revue Plans July 16 Toronto Premiere

By Mira Friedlander, Canada Correspondent
March 18, 1998

Garth Drabinsky's Livent Inc. has teamed up with Richard Maltby Jr., Chet Walker, Gwen Verdon and Fosse's daughter Nicole, to conceive an entire evening of Bob Fosse standards -- among them five film numbers that have never been seen on stage. Fosse - A Celebration of Song and Dance, will run at Toronto's Ford Centre for the Performing Arts for six weeks, beginning July 16.



Garth Drabinsky's Livent Inc. has teamed up with Richard Maltby Jr., Chet Walker, Gwen Verdon and Fosse's daughter Nicole, to conceive an entire evening of Bob Fosse standards -- among them five film numbers that have never been seen on stage. Fosse - A Celebration of Song and Dance, will run at Toronto's Ford Centre for the Performing Arts for six weeks, beginning July 16.

The plan is for the revue to tour to two U.S. cities and then reach Broadway.

Tickets (C$42.50-$82.50) to the Toronto Fosse go on sale at 10 AM, Apr. 20, at the Ford Centre box office or via the Livent Line, (416) 872 2222. American Express Card-holders can get early dibs on seats (Mar. 30-Apr. 13).

Featured in the musical 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.

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."

Choreographer Walker stresses 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.

Conceived and directed by Maltby, 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. Verdon, star of Sweet Charity and The Pajama Game, will serve 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.

*

As for the Feb. 24 press preview of Fosse, 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.

*

Toronto is experiencing something of a Bob Fosse revival. Feb. 26, the hot road show of Fosse's 1975 Chicago opened at the Princess of Wales Theatre for a ten-week run. In this First Touring Company, Charlotte d'Amboise plays chorus girl Roxie Hart and Obba Babatunde takes on Billy Flynn.

Meanwhile, Equity Showcase Theatre recently staged the 1972 hit Pippin. Equity Showcase runs out of Harbourfront Centre's Studio Theatre and is dedicated to giving professional theatre artists the opportunity to expand their talents in new directions. This is the third musical staged by Equity, following its mandate of providing a showcase for emerging musical theatre artists.

Chicago runs to April 25 at Princess of Wales Theatre. For tickets call: (416) 872-1212.