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.
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.
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.
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.
Today celebrate with us the birthday of one of America’s brightest stage and screen stars, Gwenyth Evelyn Verdon born January 13, 1925.
Age 34 “Glamorous Redhead Gwen Verdon” Magazine Cover
“The Theatre, Magazine of Drama, Comedy, Music”
from “January, 1959″ sold for “25 cents”
“Broadway’s Complicated Redhead Gwen Verdon dances like a goddess lives like a recluse and is the sole support of the town’s most popular musical.” Continue reading
The Great White Way’s attracting great white visitors. Continue reading
Bob Fosse’s Tony award winning musical revue Dancin’ national tour original black and white news print press proof photograph. With verso publication date red ink blind stamped “DEC 24 1980” having corresponding newspaper clipping affixed reading:
By Robert Alan Ross, St. Petersburg Times Critic
The show has no plot, message or consistent characters. Even so, Dancin’ delivers what its title promises. As one players says in his first-act greeting, it’s “dancing, some singing, and a lot more dancing.”
Strong, attractive and well-rehearsed, the national touring company of Dancin’ opening a six day local visit Tuesday night at the Bayfront theater, pleasing a capacity audience with Bob Fosse’s carnival of musical motion.”
A COLLECTION of routines that earned a Tony for director/choreographer Fosse in 1978, Danicn’ steps through a dozen styles in its three acts. But there’s an obvious reason for the apostrophe in the title.”
Overview image of Bob Fosse’s bestowed nickel patina Tony Award medallion reading: “The American Theatre Wing presents to Bob Fosse, Choreographer For Distinguished Achievement in Theatre, DANCIN’, 1978” measuring 3 inches in diameter, trophy mounted.
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus officially announces today that they are eliminating elephant acts from their shows and all elephants will be relocated to their Center for Elephant Conservation.
The circus plans to phase out elephant acts by 2018. Their 43 elephants will live at the company’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. Twenty-nine animals are already there, and the other 14 will arrive as they are phased out from the circus. Elephant acts have been showcased by Ringling Bros for more than a century.
Pictured below are two original black and white press call or news print publicity photograph proofs featuring Gwen Verdon in full costume as Charity Hope Valentine in the original 1966 Tony award winning Broadway “musical smash” hit Sweet Charity conceived, staged and choreographed by Bob Fosse. Gwen Verdon is pictured gallantly waving her right arm atop a Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus performance used elephant with side promotional panels reading “Sweet Charity.” Continue reading