The Broadway Theatre Review: Bob Fosse’s Dancin’
First and foremost, I just want to put it out there that everyone who steps on that Music Box Theatre stage in Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ is spectacularly talented, giving us everything one could want. The show is steadfastly based on the choreography that was originally created, directed, and choreographed by Bob Fosse in 1978 at the Broadhurst Theatre. A white shaft of light ushers in the first dancer we are introduced to, Manuel Herrera (Broadway’s West Side Story), one of the many talented souls that round out this company. He leads us down the path to, symbolically speaking, All That Jazz, laying out an almost plotless framework to help see our way through. He’s the first of many who try to take us and talk us through the structural ideas of Dancin‘. And then, a parade of dancin’ bodies in black and white float, lift, engage, twirl, saunter in, taking on their space like only a Fosse dancer can, oozing eroticism and playful precision with a click and a snap.
Back in August of 1977, Fosse, the legendary choreographer, with the development of his film All That Jazz on hold, started working on this new concept show giving himself and the company three months of rehearsal (instead of the usual eight weeks). On the first day, Fosse, director of “Sweet Charity” and “Cabaret“, told the assembled cast: “This is a show about dancing. You have to love to dance, or you should not be in this show. If you do not love it, get out, please. It’s going to be hard work for the next three months. You’re going to be exhausted, but that’s what this show is about.” And that’s almost exactly what this revival is as well. For them, and for us.
Directed and musically staged by original cast member Wayne Cilento (Broadway’s The Who’s Tommy), Dancin’ lives and moves as steadily and confidently as I’m guessing its predecessor did back in the day. On a stage, dynamically constructed by scenic designer Robert Brill (Broadway’s Thoughts of a Colored Man), with generally strong costuming by Reid Bartelme (Royal Ballet’s Dispatch Duet) and Harriet Jung (New York City Ballet), captivatingly sharp lighting by David Grill (18 Super Bowl half-time shows), a solid sound design by Peter Hylenski (Broadway’s Frozen) and some historically and artistically designed video by Finn Ross (Broadway’s American Psycho), Mr. Bojangles delivers the artistry as expected. It’s chaotic poetry, sometimes, elevated to different and unique forms, sculpted from a dancer’s body and movement. It ignites, like all those Fosse cigarettes dangling from their mouths, giving us power and erotic pleasure with each well-crafted segment.
Yeman Brown (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill) as the Poet/Spirit, and Jacob Guzman (Broadway’s Hamilton) as William Jefferson Williams, with an assist from Herrera, beautifully sing and dance it through the “Mr. Bojangles” steps and stances, followed by a paired parade of percussion inspired dancers in white. There is an impressive Three in One, making “Big Noise From Winnetka” with the dancers; Tony d’Alelio (off-Broadway’s This Ain’t No Disco), Mattie Love (Broadway’s Wicked), and Nando Morland (off-Broadway’s Sleep No More). Followed by an even more engaging Big City Mime, as we trail along behind the delectable Cyril, danced most powerfully by Peter John Chursin (Broadway’s On The Town) through the streets of the big city. There’s a gentle tease of “Big Spender” that only made me want more. And then a Bookstore sends dancer Dylis Croman (Broadway’s Chicago) up and down a ladder showcasing some pretty fine moves. Before Dancin’ Man, performed by the whole company, takes us most energetically to intermission.
But “Sing, Sing, Sing” is really the thing that sells, opening up Act Two with a Benny’s Number vengeance, danced, at one point by the amazing Kolton Krouse (Broadway’s Cats) who also delivers a magnificent “Spring Chicken” song and dance in Act One that utilized “Mein Herr” movement with a completely, but sadly, less captivating song. Krouse, in all their acts, is a dynamic and captivating performer to watch, but, at that one moment, I must admit, I just wanted Liza Minelli and her original Sally Bowles. The Female Star Spot is a hilariously up-to-date number, performed enthusiastically by Ioana Alfonso (Broadway’s 9 to 5), D. Croman, Yani Marin (Broadway’s Women on the Verge…), and Ron Todorowski (Broadway’s Angels in America), followed by some Joint Endeavors that felt good in their Pas de Deaux.
After that, unfortunately, we had the awkwardly unfocused America, which included the numbers, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever“, which tried to have it every black and white way, with quotes from activists and thinkers to oppose the ideas within the songs. I think. I’m not quite sure. It was the one moment that really disconnected for me, and even with No Good Reason at All and the Big Deal following, I’m not sure Dancin’ found its way fully back into my heart and soul.
The graphics beautifully pulled us and threw us around, as strongly as the company: Alfonso; Brown; Chursin; Croman; d’Alelio; Jovan Dansberry (Broadway’s King Kong); Karli Dinardo (Broadway’s Moulin Rouge!); Aydin Eyikan (Broadway’s The Music Man); Pedro Garza (Broadway’s Anastasia); Guzman; Herrera; Afra Hines (Broadway’s Funny Girl); Gabriel Hyman (Broadway’s King Kong); Krouse; Love; Krystal Mackie (off-Broadway’s This Ain’t No Disco); Marin; Morland; Khori Michelle Petinaud (Broadway’s Aladdin): Ida Saki (“In the Heights“); R. Todorowski; Neka Zang (Broadway’s Rock of Ages), delivered the moves of Fosse. Moves that are astounding and exciting to experience, but do get a bit repetitious in a show like this. Dancin’ is definitely a piece for those who love choreography and can get a blast of adrenaline from watching ever-so-skilled dancers doing their thing. In abundance. I found myself slowly fading back into the shadows as Act Two struggled to maintain the momentum, stalling more often than driving. If Dancin‘ is your thing, you will definitely “have a real good time, yes sir.” I, on the other hand, wanted more to connect to, even though I will always just love those Fosse moves. Maybe I do need a plot or a story…
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