…Richard Maltby Jr., Chet Walker and Ann Reinking’s tribute to the late Bob Fosse is an evening of unmitigated pleasure for fans of Broadway dance. A company of more than 30 superb dancers recreate some of the choreographer’s best known routines in an evening which combines slickness of presentation with a genuine sense of affection and respect for a much missed talent.
Wisely, co-directors Maltby and Reinking have not attempted to force their selections into any kind of a plot. Instead they have framed the evening with only the loosest of structures, artfully grouping numbers together so as to complement each other in terms of style or content. The audience is invited simply to sit back and marvel at the sheer virtuosity of Fosse and his dancers. The staging is simple, utilizing twin proscenium arches and a variety of drapes or, more often then not, a bare stage dressed only in Andrew Bridge’s spectacular lighting. There are plenty of trademark black bowler hats, black shirts and black cane chairs.
Perhaps inevitably, a considerable amount of the material comes from Fosse’s earlier evening of plotless dance, Dancin’ (1978). However, most of his shows are represented and there is even a sequence paying tribute to his early 50’s dance team partnership with Mary Ann Niles. One of the most thrilling moments occurs when Mary Ann Lamb and Andy Blankenbuehler explode onto the stage in a recreation of From This Moment On, Fosse’s first 45 seconds of film choreography, which he created for himself and Carol Haney in the 1953 movie, Kiss Me Kate. Other highlights include a wonderful Rich Man’s Frug from Sweet Charity, the dramatic tour de force reworking of Bye Bye Blackbird, which Fosse created for Minnelli’s 1972 TV special Liza with a Z, and the ultra-cool Eugene Fleming, seemingly channeling Ben Vereen for Me And My Shadow. Sergio Trujillo is sweetly moving as Mr. Bojangles and, among the less well known numbers, the show preserves the lovely harmonies (as well as the white feather fans) of All That Jazz’s Who’s Sorry Now? Also from that movie, Take Off With Us offers a moment of cool eroticism amidst so much steam heat.
Appropriately for a choreographer who created many of his greatest works for small groups of dancers rather than individual star turns, the show is very much an ensemble piece. That said, Jane Lanier’s warmth and wit and Valerie Pettiford’s high octane sex appeal are deployed to killer effect. The finale, Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing, allows all the evening’s stars a chance to shine, especially Elizabeth Parkinson who burns up the stage dancing to Glenn Drewes’ glorious trumpet solo.