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).
Pictured above is Bob Fosse in rehearsal at the Minskoff Rehearsal Studios with the cast of BIG DEAL (3/31/86).
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