NOTE: Tour casts can change on a regular basis. Please check with local venue.
You have to be a legend long after your lifetime for your surname alone to become a show title. Dancer, director and visionary choreographer Bob Fosse – who, in one golden year (1973), won two Tony awards, an Oscar and three Emmys - proves worthy of the posthumous accolade in this dazzling tribute show.
The creative team behind Fosse, including his erstwhile collaborator Ann Reinking and his widow Gwen Verdon, wisely make no effort to tell the story of his life, however colourful. Instead they celebrate his unique genius, and this revival exploits the talents of a terrific cast, led by Bonnie Langford, to demonstrate his sexy, sophisticated trademark choreography.
On a deceptively simple dancer-friendly set, the company, dressed mainly in body-hugging black that stunningly emphasises their luminous limbs, recreates routines from most of Fosse’s triumphs. The stage picture is constantly changing, but always as perfectly composed as an Old Master, gorgeously coloured and thrown into sharp relief by Andrew Bridge’s extraordinary lighting.
As scenes and routines dissolve seamlessly, one into the next, we get a masterclass in Fosse’s ground-breaking use of isolation and sharp angular body shapes. His talent as a director is evident too, in the expert pacing of numbers, the storytelling, the building to a climax.
It’s a joy to see - and hear – the show-stopping “Big Spender” again. The performers clearly equally relish the chance to perform the number and take on the personas of those world-weary women, getting more than ‘a few laughs’.
We also get a kaleidoscopic impression of the range and variety of Fosse’s work, from the elegiac wistfulness of “Life is just a bowl of cherries” and “Mr Bojangles”, to the upfront in-yer-face sleaze and tease of “Mein Herr”. In this famous number from Cabaret, Bonnie Langford gives a glimpse of what a fine Sally Bowles she would make. Langford’s a generous performer, setting off the numbers she fronts without upstaging the talented dancers arranged around her.
There’s a real sexual frisson in the edgy ambivalent elegance of “Three Pas de Deux”, featuring an all-male pair and an all-female pair alongside the more usual male/female pairing. And the live band contributes to the excitement, especially when they appear centre-stage at the show's climax.
Post 9/11, this is a welcome reminder of just how sassy, sophisticated and knowing the Big Apple and its denizens can be. Fosse is just fabulous.
- Judi Herman (reviewed at Milton Keynes Theatre)