HAPPY 86th BIRTHDAY

Today we send happy 86th birthday wishes to Hollywood star Tab Hunter!  

A product of Hollywood’s Golden Era, Tab Hunter became Hollywood’s “golden boy” and starred in over 40 feature films. One of Hunter’s first films for Warner Bros was The Sea Chase (1955), supporting John Wayne and Lana Turner. Oblivious to his sexuality, Hunter remained the all-American boy-next-door who guys envied and girls desired during the 1950s and 1960s. Being so popular that when he recorded a song called “Young Love”  it knocked Elvis Presley off the top of the charts and prompted the creation of Warner Records today known as Warner Music Group, as well as the purchase, by Jack Warner, of a popular baseball musical from Broadway for Hunter to star in. “Warner, as a gift, bought Damn Yankees! for me,” he notes in his biography Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, adding how much he enjoyed working with his costars, the assistant director Stanley Donen and choreographer Bob Fosse.

Joe Hardy a lovestruck baseball player portrayed by Tab Hunter on screen in 1958 for the Warner Bros movie musical Damn Yankees opposite leading lady Gwen Verdon as Lola the Devil’s seductress assistant. Lola was is the Tony Award winning character Verdon originated on Broadway with future husband and choreographer Bob Fosse.

Below is Tab Hunter’s heartfelt recollection of first seeing Verdon perform live with Jack Cole’s dance troupe in a Los Angeles nightclub and then working with Gwen filming Damn Yankees.

Thoughts of Gwen…

I first laid eyes on Gwen at Ciro’s night club on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. She had become the talk of the town as the lead dancer with the very exciting Jack Cole Dancers. I was hypnotized by her red hair whirling above those beautiful, long legs that seemed to start at her neck and go on forever. I have never forgotten that evening. At the time I was still in high school with no aspirations to be an actor.

A few years later I was under contract 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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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.

RIP Hollywood legend, Debbie Reynolds

The entertainment world has recently lost the mother-daughter legacy of Debbie Reynolds (4/1/32-12/28/16) and Carrie Fisher (10/21/56-12/27/16).  While MGM superstar, Reynolds, is probably well-known for her leading role as Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952) alongside Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, she was paired up with a young Bob Fosse in two other films: The Affairs of Dobie Gillis and Give A Girl A Break (both 1953).

Debbie Reynolds and Bob Fosse

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)