RIP Broadway dancer, John Mineo

The Verdon Fosse Legacy mourns the loss of Broadway performer, John Mineo (10/26/1942-11/19/2016). Mineo performed in Bob Fosse’s PIPPIN and DANCIN’ and in the Broadway revival of CHICAGO.

Born in the Bronx, Mineo began dancing at age 5 and was accepted to the High School of Performing Arts before landing his first Broadway show as Baby John in WEST SIDE STORY at age 17. After an extensive forty-four year career on Broadway (nineteen musicals!), Mineo relocated to Japan with his wife to found J Dance, a theater and tap dance studio in Osaka. www.thinkcount.com

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“Chita: Nowadays” Chita Rivera at Carnegie Hall

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Chita performing “Nowadays” with Alan Cumming.

On Monday, November 7th, two-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera performed a one-night-only concert “Chita: Nowadays” at Carnegie Hall. Though a legend that has graced many of the world’s greatest stages, this was Chita’s first appearance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Headlined, of course, by Chita, the evening was studded with a number of Broadway’s leading men. (In the words of Roxie Hart, “I’m gonna get me a whole bunch of boys!”) Alan Cumming, Andy Karl, James Harms, Javier Munoz, Matthew Deming, Brandon Victor Dixon, Stevie Van Zandt, Chris Newcomer, and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus shared the stage with Ms. Rivera along with her back-up dancers, Richard Amaro, Robert Mantano, Ramon Del Barrio, and Lloyd Culbreath (a chief reconstructed for The Verdon Fosse Legacy).

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Chita with her “back up boys:” Richard Amaro, Robert Mantano, Ramon Del Barrio, and Lloyd Culbreath.

Between each song and dance number, Chita told an anecdote about her many male co-stars (the dreamy Antonio Banderas and the charming Dick Van Dyke, to name a few) or recalled a memorable phone call (John Kander and Fred Ebb soliciting Chita to play the role of Liza Minnelli’s mother in THE RINK, or Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon asking Chita to take on the role of Charity Hope Valentine in the first national tour of SWEET CHARITY).

Produced by Daniel Nardicio and directed by Graciela Daniele, “Chita: Nowadays” celebrated Chita Rivera’s remarkable career on both the stage and the screen. Just a few of her most notable credits include originating the roles of Anita in WEST SIDE STORY, Rosie in BYE, BYE BIRDIE, Aurora in KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, Liliane in NINE, Velma in CHICAGO, and, most recently, Claire in THE VISIT. Chita has starred in 18 Broadway shows, has been nominated for 10 Tony Awards, was the first Latino American woman to receive a Kennedy Center Honors Award (2002), and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2009.

20th anniversary of CHICAGO revival

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Today marks the 20th anniversary of CHICAGO’s 1996 Broadway revival.

Chicago Tribune reporter, Maurine Watkins, was assigned to cover the cases of accused murderers Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner in 1924. The public went wild over Watkins’ coverage and the trials of a slew of other women who had killed their husbands and lovers. Murderesses quickly became celebrities—their stories sensationalized and their demeanor playing a significant role in the pursuit of justice. Watkins became fascinated with the frenzy and inspired to write her 1926 play, CHICAGO.

Watkins’ play has remained consistently relevant and intriguing over the past ninety years. It inspired Cecil B. DeMille’s 1927 silent film, the 1942 film “Roxie Hart” starring Ginger Rogers, Bob Fosse’s 1975 stage musical, the 1996 Broadway revival, and the 2002 Oscar-winning movie musical.

(Fun fact: Late in her life, Watkins became a born-again Christian and denounced her own play for glamorizing sex, scandal, and corruption. So when Bob Fosse approached Watkins for the rights to turn her play into a musical, she declined. It wasn’t until after her death that Fosse was able to buy the rights from Watkins’ estate.)

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Original revival stars: Bebe Neuwirth (Velma Kelly), James Naughton (Billy Flynn), Ann Reinking (Roxie Hart), and Joel Grey (Amos Hart).

CHICAGO tells a story of “murder, greed, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery: all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts.”  Wannabe stage celebrity, Roxie Hart, kills her lover and winds up behind bars with a whole cast of “merry” murderesses including vaudeville star, Velma Kelly, who killed her husband and sister after she caught them in bed together. Roxie’s husband, Amos, blind to his wife’s indiscretions, scrounges enough money to hire the best lawyer in town: Billy Flynn. Though successful, Flynn is a crook himself and puppeteers both the media and the trial.  Through a vaudeville lens, CHICAGO illustrates the eery similarities between the justice system and show business.  It’s all just a bunch of razzle dazzle, things aren’t always what they seem, and—you know—all that jazz.

 

 

 

RIP Broadway dancer, Rene Ceballos

We mourn the loss of Rene Ceballos Alfano (4/7/53-10/6/16) who passed away on Thursday after a long battle with many health issues.  Ceballos performed in the original company of Bob Fosse’s DANCIN’ (pictured below in a rehearsal) and is also acclaimed for originating the role of Cassandra in CATS.  Other Broadway credits include A CHORUS LINE, GRAND HOTEL, CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD, and THE CAPEMAN.  Rest in peace, Rene.

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Fosse vets perform “Manson Trio” at 31st Annual CTFD Jubilee

The 31st Annual Career Transition for Dancers Jubilee was held Monday, September 26th at the Marriott Marquis.

The celebration gala presented special guests and performances including Bob Fosse’s “Manson Trio” (PIPPIN) performed by Bebe Neuwirth (DANCIN’, SWEET CHARITY, FOSSE), David Warren Gibson (DANCIN’, SWEET CHARITY), and Pam Sousa (PIPPIN, CHICAGO).

This year Career Transition for Dancers joined forces with The Actors Fund.  The union, “integrated the services of CTFD, which assists dancers during and post-career with career planning and transition, into the ongoing programs of The Actors Fund, a human services organization with services that help everyone who works in entertainment and the performing arts.”

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For more information about CTFD, visit www.actorsfund.org/careertransition.

(Photo: Richard Termine)

John McMartin, ‘Sweet Charity’ Star, Dies at 86

John McMartin, star of both the Broadway production and Hollywood movie of “Sweet Charity,” died from cancer on Wednesday, July 6th at age 86.

John McMartin, ‘Sweet Charity’ Star, Dies at 86 (New York Times, by William Grimes)

He made his first big splash on Broadway in 1966 opposite Gwen Verdon in Mr. Fosse’s “Sweet Charity.” As the claustrophobic Oscar Lindquist, he quailed in a broken elevator while Ms. Verdon bucked up his spirits with “I’m the Bravest Individual,” handling the tough assignment of playing Mr. Nice Guy to a bundle of emotional dynamite. At Mr. Fosse’s invitation, he traveled to Hollywood to repeat the role opposite Shirley MacLaine in the movie version in 1969.

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“Fosse on Film” Master Classes @ BDC

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The Verdon Fosse Legacy, LLC is back with a series of “Fosse on Film”-inspired master classes at Broadway Dance Center in which students will learn iconic Fosse rep under the direction of Fosse veterans. Don’t miss your chance to train in one of Broadway’s most acclaimed techniques!

For Advanced Dancers
Ages 16+
All classes are on Sundays from 6-9pm 

$35
pre-register here
Students must register and pay for each class separately
There are no exchanges or refunds for this class


July 10th, 6-9pm
“Son of a Preacher Man” from “Liza with a Z”
with Valarie Pettiford

July 24th, 6-9pm
“There’ll Be Some Changes Made” from “All That Jazz”
with Dana Moore

August 7th, 6-9pm
“Two Lost Souls” from “Damn Yankees”
with Lloyd Culbreath

August 14th, 6-9pm
“Steam Heat” from “The Pajama Game”
with Dana Moore

August 21st, 6-9pm
“Once-A-Year Day” from “The Pajama Game”
with Lloyd Culbreath

For additional information or questions, please email BDCWorkshops@bwydance.com or call the registration office at 212-582-9304 x24


Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 4.14.50 PMValarie Pettiford, a Drama League, Outer Critics, and TONY nominee for Fosse, can currently be seen recurring on two hit TV series, The Blacklist on NBC, and the new hit Comedy Born Again Virgin on TV one.

Valarie’s Broadway highlights include:  Sophisticated LadiesBig Deal; the first National tour of Dancin’; the 30th anniversary tour of West Side Story, as Anita; and the revival tour of Show Boat, as Julie. She is an NAACP Winner for best actress in the LA production of Michael John La Chuisa’s The Wild Party as Queenie.

Valarie’s TV credits include: 4 seasons and 3 NAACP image nominations as Big Dee Dee on the hit TV series Half and Half. She can be seen as Aunt Geneva in the hit movie Jumping The Broom, and guest starring on BlackishTrue Blood,  TremeCriminal Minds, and CSI, just to name a few.

Valarie is a Bistro winner for the Cabaret Debut at the Metropolitan Room. She can be seen touring with her sold-out one women show around the country. She has 2 CD’s available on ITunes, and for the last 3 years she has been hired by The Verdon/Fosse Legacy to reconstruct Fosse’s choreography through Master classes.


moore_danaDana Moore is a veteran of the Broadway stage. she was last seen on Broadway in Not Guilty (Hunyak) in chicago. Dana was also featured in Fosse (now on DVD), which chronicled Bob Fosse’s work from stage, film and television.

Dana’s other Broadway credits include: A Chorus LineSweet Charity, Bob Fosse’s Dancin’On Your ToesThe Will Rogers FolliesHow To Succeed […], Singin’ in the Rain, Dangerous GamesSugar Babies and Copperfield. 

Dana has toured with Chicago and Falsettos and appeared in the following films: The Producers: the Movie Musical and Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You. Dana is a Musical Theater faculty member at Marymount Manhattan College and conducts master classes in cities across the USA. Internationally, Dana has worked as teacher and choreographer for the International Dance Intensive in Cyprus, Badar Dance Institue in Oslo, Tapage Dance Company in Toulouse, and the Jazz Musical Theatre Program at Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts. Dana is also a founding company member of Chet Walker’s Walker Dance Company.


Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 4.15.22 PMLloyd Culbreath, a veteran Fosse dancer, has worked in the entertainment industry for over 30 years. Currently, he is lead instructor for the Fosse Master Class Series sanctioned by the Verdon Fosse Estate. Lloyd’s Broadway credits include DANCIN’, Sophisticated Ladies, The Tap Dance Kid, Big Deal, National Tour of Sweet Charity, Honky Tonk Nights, Guys and Dolls, On The Town (Assistant Choreographer), Man of La Mancha (Assistant Choreographer), National Tour of Chicago (Dance Captain) and Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Bob Fosse!

scan0458Robert Louis Fosse was born on this day (June 23rd), 1927. Growing up in Chicago, young Bob Fosse was obsessed with Fred Astaire, the king of Hollywood’s Golden Age of movie musicals. As a boy Fosse would watch his famous films and try to imitate not only Astaire’s tapping feet, but also his debonair style and enchanting charm. At age twenty-five, Fosse landed his own contract with Hollywood’s MGM studios as a dancer in movies such as Kiss Me, Kate, Give A Girl A Break, and The Affairs of Dobie Gillis. One day Fred Astaire bumped into Fosse while on the MGM set. Astaire politely introduced himself and, before walking away, casually kicked a nail that was lying on the ground, causing it to ricochet in an intricate pattern that simply mesmerized Fosse. After Astaire left, Fosse recovered that nail and worked for hours to reenact its choreography—with the same ease and grace of Astaire.

But Bob Fosse certainly didn’t always stand in the shadows of Fred Astaire; he went on to revolutionize American theatre dance. His blend of awesome sensuality, clever humor, cinematic insight, popular references, and a hint of cynicism made musical theatre contemporary, consumable, and controversial. Fosse was one of the greatest dance visionaries of the 20th century. He directed and choreographed over twenty-three films and Broadway musicals and won four Oscars and eight Tony Awards (more than any other choreographer). Additionally, Fosse is the only person ever to have won the “Triple Crown:” a Tony for Pippin, an Oscar for Cabaret, and an Emmy for Liza Minnelli’s television concert, Liza with a ‘Z’—all in 1973.

Today, the signature style of bowler hats, turned-in toes, and stooped shoulders is universally recognized simply as “Fosse.” His innovative, internalized, character-driven style helped define a new vernacular in the art of American Musical Theatre, making “Fosse” a renowned genre of dance all its own. Bob Fosse’s legacy lives on onstage in musicals such as Chicago and Sweet Charity, in pop culture references and inspiration, and through Fosse Master Classes produced by The Verdon Fosse Legacy LLC.

 

Inspirational heavyweight champ, Muhammad Ali

Legendary heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, died Friday at the age of 74.  Bob Fosse was inspired by the brute athleticism and regal artistry of boxing, and he and Gwen attended many of Ali’s big fights together—in a tux and gown, no less!  Below is a clip of “The Heavyweight” from the film of “Sweet Charity.”  Notice the boxing influences, sounds, movements, and metaphors so masterfully choreographed into the piece.

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American Dance Machine performs “Rich Man’s Frug” from SWEET CHARITY

The Heavyweight

Perhaps, also, Fosse was inspired by Ali’s work ethic, wisdom, and dedication to his craft; “A man who is not courageous enough to take risks will never accomplish anything in life.”—Muhammad Ali

30th anniversary of BIG DEAL…That’s a big deal!

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Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the opening night of Bob Fosse’s final Broadway production, BIG DEAL (4/10/86). Set in 1930s Chicago, the show follows a group of African-American men who attempt to rob a pawn shop (based on Mario Monicelli’s 1958 film “Big Deal on Madonna Street”). The show features some of Fosse’s iconic numbers such as “Dancin’ Dan (Me and My Shadow),” “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,” and “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar.”

While the production closed in just under two months, Frank Rich quoted “[At the end of Act 1,] Mr. Fosse makes an audience remember what is (and has been) missing from virtually every other musical in town. The number is set to the old song ”Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar,” and it unfolds in a Chicago ballroom of the 1930’s called (need I tell you?) Paradise. There’s a big band on a platform, and, somewhere in the blackness below, are two song-and-dance men (the frisky Bruce Anthony Davis and Wayne Cilento) slithering in flickering silver light. The men’s shoulders start to roll, their elbows sharpen, their hands hang limp even as the rest of their bodies gyrate at hard angles. And, just as these gentlemen seem to have merged with the high notes blared by the raucous horns above them, they are joined by a large chorus of bubbly revelers, who, by crossing the stage on a jagged diagonal, somehow manage to liberate both the show and the audience from conventional burdens of time, space and care” (“Theater: BIG DEAL from Bob Fosse,” NY Times).