All That Jazz in Bryant Park

On Monday, August 7th Bryant Park hosted an outdoor film screening of Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” as part of HBO’s Summer Film Series.  Despite the gloomy weather, the screening had a great turnout and film fans—umbrellas in hand—crowded around the park lawn to watch the legendary movie on the big screen.

It’s showtime, folks!” Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) is a workaholic Broadway director and choreographer. He is also a womanizer, a heavy drinker, a chain smoker and frequent pill popper. Bob Fosse directed this jazzy, thinly-veiled autobiographical film showcasing his very own personal demons. Not surprisingly, Gideon (like Fosse) eventually finds himself in a life-or-death struggle as he goes under the knife for open-heart surgery. Nominated for nine Oscars, All That Jazz won four (Score, Art Direction, Costumes, Editing). If you can survive it, there’s no business-like show business. (1979) 123 MIN. (R) (FOX)

Congratulations Jessica Lange! Lead Actress Emmy nomination “Feud: Bette and Joan”

Congratulations Jessica Lange on your Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Emmy nomination. Feud: Bette and Joan

A revered actress and three-time Emmy winner, Jessica Lange was perhaps a shoo-in for this year’s crop of nominees. After portraying Joan Crawford in Ryan Murphy’s miniseries “Feud: Bette and Joan,” Lange earned her eighth Emmy nod, and she will be competing against co-star Susan Sarandan in the lead actress in a drama category.

Published New York Times, March 1978: Dancin’ king is the toast of Broadway / Director Bob Fosse was jumping with joy last night at Tavern on the Green. He caressed his favorite lady, Jessica Lange, and wore a broad smile after his new musical “Dancin'” won rave reviews. Our own Clive Barnes called it “tremendous” and “fantastic.” 

Published NY Daily News, Monday, February 1, 1960: The Stars at Night. Gwen Verdon, Reed Dawson and Joan Crawford discuss program for variety show and ball to be held night of April 3 for beinfit of the new Children’s Clinic of the Postgraduate Center of Psychotherapy, 218 E. 70th St. Dawson is chairman of trustees of the Center.  Both Gwen and Joan will officiate at the affair.

 

This is our “Once-A-Year Day!”—Happy Fourth of July! The Pajama Game 1957

Happy Fourth of July!  Since many Americans will celebrate this holiday with a picnic in the park, here’s a fun clip of Bob Fosse’s “Once-A-Year Day” from the 1957 film version of “The Pajama Game.”

In a Dance Magazine article (1957), Carol Haney described the “Once-A-Year Day” choreography—both the choreography of the movement and of the camera: “For a scene like the big “Once-A-Year Day” number—the picnic dance which we did on location in a park—Bob Fosse re-choreographed his original dance completely to involve more people and all the space you can cover with a camera. And Stanley Donen, who knows about dance, photographed it in wonderful travelling shots that captured all of the dynamism of the movements and at the same time provided enough air around the performers to make their movements significant. You see, you just can’t set up your camera and photograph a dance…You have to know just where to place it, which angle will make it exciting and alive.”

Wright State University performs “Rich Man’s Frug”

The Verdon Fosse Legacy was invited to Wright State University for a week-long immersion of Fosse technique and repertoire with their dance and musical theatre departments.  Veteran Fosse dance and one of the Legacy’s leading reconstructeurs, Lloyd Culbreath, and his assistant, Marissa Calabrese, taught daily master classes, participated in a talk-back, and reconstructed “Rich Man’s Frug” from SWEET CHARITY for the department’s spring concert.

“The program, staff, and facility were all fantastic.  And the students were incredibly talented.  It was an honor and an absolute pleasure to work with such talent and professionalism.”—Lloyd Culbreath

The Verdon Fosse Legacy would like to extend a special thank you to The Musical Theatre Initiative at Wright State University and it’s director, Joe Deer, for making this collaboration possible.  For more information about Wright State University, visit www.wright.edu.   All inquiries regarding choreographic reconstructions of Bob Fosse’s work can be directed to theverdonfosselegacyllc@gmail.com.

*All photos by Scott Robbins

Steps on Broadway Conservatory students perform “I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man”

The Verdon Fosse Legacy was invited to reconstruct “I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man” on the pre-professional students of the Steps on Broadway Conservatory Program. Veteran Fosse dancer and Legacy-sanctioned reconstructeur, Lloyd Culbreath, taught the piece with the help of his assistant, Marissa Calabrese, and vocal coach, Jan Horvath (also a veteran Fosse performer).

Steps on Broadway Conservatory performs “I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man” (photo: Eduardo Patino)

Bob Fosse choreographed “I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man” as a tribute to his own personal dance icon, Fred Astaire. As the Act II opener from 1978’s musical revue, DANCIN,’ “Dancin’ Man” honors the charm and elegance of Astaire and celebrates the golden age of the Hollywood musical. But the ensemble production number also highlights a poignant, universal sentiment that lies at the heart of every dancer—despite all of the sacrifices (physical, emotional, professional), the dancer loves to Continue reading

HAPPY 90th BIRTHDAY BOB FOSSE!

Celebrate with us the 90th birthday of an American dance theatre and film performance icon Robert Louis “Bob” Fosse born June 23, 1927.

Pictured above is a never before seen candid photograph from the Verdon Fosse Legacy LLC archives featuring Bob Fosse backstage in the acclaimed 1963 musical Pal Joey dressing room at City Center wearing terrycloth robe. Having verso glue residue and ink handwritten annotation reading “Pal Joey” measuring 7 1/2 x 8 inches overall. 

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A caricature is worth a thousand words

American caricaturist, Al Hirschfeld, created a number of iconic black-and-white cartoons of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon chronicling their Broadway careers.  Hirschfeld would publish his portraits of dancers, singers, and actors prior to a new Broadway show’s opening night.  Below are several caricatures from The Al Hirschfeld Foundation.

DAMN YANKEES 1955

NEW GIRL IN TOWN 1957

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67 years ago…Verdon and Fosse made strikingly similar Broadway debuts

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.

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.