Great Article About Broadway Commercials Featuring Fosse Shows

Broadway TV Commercials – A history of Broadway on TV
by Dom O’Hanlon – on 12 Nov 2015


Marketing a musical is no easy challenge. You can have the greatest show in the world with a string of awards to its name and rave reviews, but if the public don’t know it’s on – they won’t be buying tickets. Commercial theatre is ruthless, and shows that don’t turn a profit, however artistically successful they may be, will soon find themselves posting closing notices.

Watching new musicals open on both sides of the Atlantic, I’m often struck at the difference in efforts put in by productions in terms of marketing. Traditional ways of marketing include posters on the tube, London bus takeovers and the like – but with new media being front and centre in everyone’s daily life – social media has taken over as a key way to reach a core demographic.

There are many things that contribute towards a successful marketing campaign, but I recently read a quote from a producer who has embraced new media’s ability to lift a show from the 2D poster and place it into the 3D world – through EPK’s (Electronic Press Kits) to YouTube videos, specially commissioned videos and clips from the show. Whilst artistically, many would argue that exposing too much detail from a particular production can ruin the surprise, history would argue that instead this visual experience engages the consumer more and boosts interest in seeing the show live.

The history of TV commercials on Broadway is exceptionally interesting. Pippin broke new ground when it became the first show to actively show footage of the production during the commercial, a move that took Broadway by storm, and changed how marketing would work forever. Bob Fosse’s production originally opened on 23 October 1972, and ran for 1,944 performances before closing on 12 June 1977. Whilst it got off to a slow start, the combination of being a ‘concept’ musical and an unknown subject matter meant it was initially difficult to market.

Despite initial reservations from Fosse, he decided to choreograph and film a small 60 second segment of the production that showed Ben Vereen and two other dancers, Candy Brown and Pamela Sousa perform the “Manson Trio” from the song “Glory”. The commercial ended with the tagline: “You can see the other 119 minutes of Pippin live at the Imperial Theatre, without commercial interruption.”

The power of this commercial was so unique, that other productions soon got on the bandwagon, with some achieving more success than others. Since 1972, the practise is continued on both sides of the Atlantic, with commercials growing in size and stature – teams of people are now employed specifically to deliver the goods, with the hope that sales will pick up as the footage is beamed out across the country, and of course the world.

Whilst today it’s even easier to tap into that market – as a TV spot isn’t even needed to have the same effect. Video commercials can easily be shared and distributed online via social media and websites – footage from productions is now as vital as having an interesting poster.

Pippin aside, below is a selection of my personal favorite commercials from Broadway past:


2. Chicago (1975)

Whilst Bennett’s Chorus Line was packing them in at the Schubert, Fosse was attempting to do the same thing with an original musical of his own. Now the longest running revival on Broadway, the original production of Chicago was quite different, and starred Fosse’s wife Gwen Verdon opposite Chita Rivera. Notice how the commercial retains much of Pippin’s charm, focusing on just a moment of the show rather than a montage.

Bob Fosse “Balletic-Dance Terms with English Pronunciations and Identifications” 1949

A ballet dance terminology instructional book written by Margaret Oloff belonging to American Emmy, Tony, and Academy Award winning choreographer Bob Fosse.

19FVFMetallic 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

RIP Joseph P. Harris, Broadway producer and general manager

The Verdon Fosse Legacy mourns the loss of Joseph P. Harris, one of Broadway’s acclaimed producers and general managers.  Mr. Harris served as company manager for Can Can starring Gwen Verdon in 1953, was general manager for the original production of Sweet Charity in 1966 and for Pippin in 1972,  produced Chicago in 1975, was general manager for Big Deal  in 1986, won the Tony for the revival of Sweet Charity starring Debbie Allen in 1986, and was associated with over 200 other plays and musicals during his lifetime.  He died peacefully last Wednesday (2/11) at his home in Greenwich, CT.


Gwen Verdon “She’s a Sweetheart!” Sweet Charity, 1967

Pictured is Gwen Verdon backstage as Charity Hope Valentine during the original Broadway “musical smash” hit Sweet Charity conceived, staged and choreographed by Bob Fosse at the Palace Theatre. Charity is showing a brassiere shoulder strap and wearing a light colored terry cloth robe with noted Broadway Stage Manager Paul Phillips in foreground. The provided 1967 news-wire corresponding press caption does not use the word tattoo, it is described as a “heart painted on her arm” by Phillips. The top center left shoulder hand painted single arrowed heart reads the name of her no good boyfriend “CHARLIE” appearing in Central Park New York City during Scene One, Act I.

SweetCharityGV Continue reading

Gwen Verdon “New Girl In Town” broadside, 1957

“Dances and Musical Numbers Staged by Bob Fosse”
NewGirlInTownDetail image of original theater broadside or handout flyer for the 1957 Broadway production New Girl in Town presenting Gwen Verdon and Thelma Ritter with top billing.  New Girl in Town was a new musical produced by Harold Prince located at the “Shubert Theatre” with book by George Abbot having praised “Dances and Musical Numbers Staged by Bob Fosse.” Continue reading

Bob Fosse “Sweet Charity” Choreographer Tony Award, 1966

Overview image of Bob Fosse’s fifth bestowed nickel patina Tony Award medallion reading: “The American Theatre Wing presents to Bob Fosse, Choreographer For Distinguished Achievement in Theatre, “Sweet Charity”, 1965-66.”

FosseSweetCharityTonyMeasuring 3 inches in diameter, mounted on a custom square presentation wall display with black velvet fabric surround. Continue reading

“Big Spender” Fan-Dango Ballroom Girls, 1966

 Good looking, so refined.

BigSpender Brian Cummings colorFeaturing the ten original Sweet Charity girls of the Fan-Dango Ballroom where Charity Hope Valentine works a taxi dancer in the Times Square theater district of New York City. Dancers pictured in colorful full stage costume during celebrated musical number “Big Spender” from Act I, Scene 3 with Helene Gallagher, Thelma Oliver and the Fan-Dango girls. Continue reading

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Gwen Verdon! “The Garden of Eden” 1954

Today celebrate with us the birthday of one of America’s brightest stars, Gwen Verdon born January 13, 1925.

Age 28 Gwen Verdon as Claudine in Can Can

Pictured in full costume in Gwen Verdon during her Tony award winning "Can Can" Broadway musical role as Eve in the "Garden of Eden" ballet, music and lyrics by Cole Porter with choreography by Michael Kidd.Pictured in full Eve costume is Gwen Verdon during her notorious Act One Tony Award winning Can Can Broadway performance as saucy laundress Claudine in “The Garden of Eden” ballet, music and lyrics by Cole Porter with choreography by Michael Kidd. Continue reading