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NETworks' National Tour of the magnificent must-see musical revue Fosse, presented Dec. 3 in Page Auditorium as part of the Broadway at Duke series, is a sparkling tribute to one of the true geniuses of the American theater, motion pictures, and television in the last half of the 20th century. Fosse, which won the 1999 Tony Award for best musical, is a highly entertaining sampling of the best (but not necessarily always the most famous) work that director and choreographer Robert Louis Fosse (1927-87) did in each medium.
Bob Fosse was an incredible innovator in the arts, but a world-class louse when it came to being faithful to the women in his life. He lived hard; and when he died prematurely at 60 in 1987, there was no funeral — at his request. Fosse is, perhaps, the best eulogy that the director and choreographer could hope for.
It is truly remarkable that Fosse's wife, Gwen Verdon, and his mistress, Ann Reinking, both played key roles in creating Fosse, especially since Fosse put them both through literal hell with his compulsive womanizing. Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr., Chet Walker, and Ann Reinking, Fosse was directed by Maltby and Reinking, with Reinking and Chet Walker recreating Fosse's original choreography for each segment.
Classic Fosse dance routines recreated include: "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Dancin' Man," "Hey, Big Spender," "Sing, Sing, Sing" and "Steam Heat."
Bob Fosse's high-octane production numbers and dance segments provided the essential razzle-dazzle that transformed many a musical play into a musical spectacular — on the Great White Way, on the silver screen, or on television — and his stylistically exaggerated staging employed angular groupings of dancers in fresh new ways. Black bowler hats and white gloves were a Fosse trademark. So were haughty head bobs and sassy pelvic thrusts.
The son of a vaudevillian and a professional dancer since age 13, Bob Fosse learned his craft at dance schools and in the chorus line of a series of late 1940s and early 1950s Broadway musicals, national tours, and motion pictures. He won his first Tony Award for choreography for The Pajama Game (1954). He took home subsequent Tonys for his work on Broadway on Damn Yankees (1955), Redhead (1959), Little Me (1963), Sweet Charity (1966), Pippin (1972), and Dancin' (1978).
In 1973, Bob Fosse made history by becoming the first director to win an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy in the same year for his work on the motion-picture version of Cabaret, the Broadway musical Pippin, and the TV special Liza with a Z, starring Liza Minnelli.
Broadway at Duke presents Fosse Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. in Page Auditorium on Duke University's West Campus in Durham, North Carolina. $32-$40 ($15-$23 Duke students). 919/684-4444 or http://events.duke.edu/box_office/. http://www.duke.edu/web/duu/broadway/broadwayevents.htm#fosse or http://www.fossethemusical.com/.