Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse made strikingly similar Broadway debuts. Gwen performed in and assisted Jack Cole on ALIVE AND KICKING, a Follies-style musical revue with comedic sketches, songs, and production numbers. The show opened on January 17th, 1950—just three days before Bob Fosse’s Broadway debut. He performed his “Fosse and Niles” act with his first wife, Mary Ann Niles, in DANCE ME A SONG (also a musical song-and-dance revue) which opened January 20th, 1950.
ALIVE AND KICKING closed after a mere 46 performances and DANCE ME A SONG closed after only 35. Nevertheless, the musicals—which played at theaters only six blocks away from each other—helped to launch the bright and legendary Broadway careers of Verdon and Fosse.
L to R: Bob Scheerer, Cliff Ferre, and Bob Fosse in the Broadway show, DANCE ME A SONG, 1950.
Jack Cole and Gwen Verdon dancing “Dove’s Blues” in the Broadway show, ALIVE AND KICKING, 1950.
Robert 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.
Celebrate with us today the 56th wedding anniversary of bride Gwen Verdon and groom Bob Fosse married on April 3rd 1960!
In the early spring of 1960 while their Broadway show ”Redhead” was on tour in Fosse’s home city of Chicago, Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse married, and by the time the tour reached Los Angeles, Verdon decided to retire from show business with the intention of concentrating on family life. In 1963 their daughter, Nicole, was born.
Pictured is undated self Polaroid camera portrait from the Verdon Fosse Legacy archives, appears to be from the early 1960s, measuring 3 by 4 inches overall.
Today we celebrate the half century anniversary of Tony Award winning American musical Sweet Charity.
In January 1966, The Nederlanders turned New York City’s famed Palace Theatre into a legitimate theatrical stage for the opening of Sweet Charity conceived, staged and choreographed by Bob Fosse starring Gwen Verdon.
Gwen Verdon played the title role of Charity Hope Valentine, a taxi dancer at a dance hall called the “Fan-Dango Ballroom” in Times Square, New York City.
Please join Verdon Fosse Legacy Wednesday, January 20, 7pm at the All That Jack (Cole) MOMA film series for a screening of On the Riviera with introduction by Nicole Fosse.
On the Riviera, 1951 starring Danny Kaye, Gene Tierney, Corinne Calvet, and Gwen Verdon. 89 min.
Though unbilled in the main credits, Cole protégée Gwen Verdon features prominently in this dance-rich Fox Technicolor movie, as she leads nominal star Danny Kaye on a world-dance tour that includes Cole’s signature version of Hindu jazz in “Rhythm of a New Romance.” Cole’s dark side surfaces in the creepy, pseudo-whimsical “Popo the Puppet.” As Busby Berkeley had done 20 years earlier, Cole completely commandeers the mise en scène from the mediocre director of record for an amazing finale, aptly titled “Happy Ending.”
Dance wardrobe material from the Verdon Fosse Legacy archives, a black sateen collapsible top hat with grosgrain band and brim detail. Having traditional curl or rounded brim. Satin fabric lined interior is marked by hand in white marker reading Continue reading →
A ballet dance terminology instructional book written by Margaret Oloff belonging to American Emmy, Tony, and Academy Award winning choreographer Bob Fosse.
Metallic gold paper covered performance reference book center titled, “Balletic-Dance Terms with English Pronunciations and Identifications” by Margaret R. Oloff, soft bound first edition published in 1949. Bookstore label Continue reading →
Celebrate today with us the birth of an American dance theatre and film performance icon
Robert Louis “Bob” Fosse born June 23, 1927
Pictured below are six a never before seen personally kept photographs from the Verdon Fosse Legacy LLC archives featuring Bob Fosse’s childhood from age 6 to about 14 years. Shown growing-up in Chicago, including early stage and dance eduction training.
Grade school snapshot photograph of “Bobbie Fosse”having “age 6 yrs” longhand penciled verso. According to sister Marianne Fosse, their mother seemed to remember this photo was taken the day her husband went to receive his Crossing Guard or school Safety Monitor belt, directing pedestrians. Slight folds, small edge tears, and surface wear or scratches present, measuring 3 1/4 x 4 3/4 inches overall. Continue reading →
This month our very own Valarie Pettiford (Big Deal, DANCIN’, Fosse) traveled to Amsterdam to teach at the Lucia Marthas Institute for the Performing Arts. LMIPA is a university-like program that offers Bachelor’s Degrees, Intermediate Degrees, and preliminary courses in the performing arts: acting, singing, and dancing.
Earlier this year, Sigrid van Coillie visited New York with some of her LMIPA students and took a “Sing! Sing! Sing!” master class with Valarie. “Even in that first class,” Val remembers, “the students knew all about Bob and were familiar with his technique and style. They were overjoyed to have me really ‘work’ them!” says Valarie. After such a great experience, Sigrid invited Val to teach about twenty of LMIPA’s 4th year students for their graduation performance concert.
Valarie taught a medley of “Crunchy Granola Suite” (DANCIN’), “Dancin’ Man” (DANCIN’), and “I Gotcha” (“Liza with a Z”). “The number was only allotted a certain number of minutes,” Val explains, “so I was forced to cut down some of the choreography—which pains me to do. But the [Verdon Fosse] Estate granted me the liberty to abridge some of the numbers and also add more dancers to the piece.”
“This was a great experience for me, as well,” notes Val. “I liken it to when I was the dance captain for Big Deal. It’s a lot of responsibility to know everyone’s counts and movements and positions on stage. I had the time of my life teaching these incredible students. They were so willing and present. This experience reminded me why I’m in showbiz, why I love to teach, and why I’m so honored to pass on the torch of Fosse choreography.”
“It’s actually no surprise to me that Fosse is so popular abroad,” admits Val. “Fosse choreography is magical both to watch and to dance! The man was fierce and there was no one like him. Performing that work changes you as a human. It excites you and touches your core. Everybody ‘gets’ it and can relate to it for some reason. Fosse was a force to be reckoned with and I think that’s why he remains so popular all over the world.”
Thank you to Lucia Marthas, Sigrid Van Coillie, James Van Der Velden, Rich Ascroft, Jessica Schots, Roemjana, Steve Jones, Lloyd Culbreath, Valarie Pettiford, Nicole Fosse, and everyone else who made this possible.
If you are interested in having a Verdon Fosse Estate-sanctioned teacher come to your dance school or college, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.