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BROADWAY REVIEW: ‘Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ Revival Is Fascinating, If Controversial, A Throwback To The ’70s

Dancers are athletes; it’s just that America doesn’t always see.

They have superhuman bodies and indomitable spirits, their careers are short, they are vulnerable to injury, they are often vessels for others’ game plans, and on any given night, they can score, meet expectations, or blow you away. as surely as a running back shaking down defenders.

That truth surely dances around your head in “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’,” the riveting, if deeply conflicted, new Broadway revival of the 1978 revue hit “Dancin’.” Now it has a tighter brand around its famous – or infamous – choreographer, and is reintroduced at the Music Box Theater by Wayne Cilento, an original cast member working with a punchy big-band sound, wildly costume design tasty by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, and 22 members of the ensemble company with the same bill and, I imagine, no living recollection of 1978.

For Broadway dancers, “Dancin’” is a revered part of their collective history, which should put all kinds of pressure on this cast. This was a show that jettisoned both the book and the score and the notoriously hot-tempered and controlling-minded Fosse’s need to compete with the composer or writer. Instead, he used choreography as his entire narrative, drawing from an eclectic range of pre-existing music, from Johann Sebastian Bach to George M. Cohan, Mike Leiber and Jerry Stoller, all performed live and aloud and arranged by theme, not by shape or style. .

Sure, the dancers had been front and center on “A Chorus Line” as well, but they were singing and talking like they were talking to psychiatrists eight times a week. “Dancin’” put real dance, athletic artistry, not the profession’s endemic traumas and insecurities, in that spotlight. Fosse’s dancers in the 1970s rehearsed for three months and it all took its toll on their bodies; in return, they got a long career, a better salary than dancers had ever received before, and were part of a seminal (and successful) push for a whole new level of pop culture legitimacy.

Choreographer and director Bob Fosse is surrounded by some of his dancers as they celebrate the second anniversary of "dancing," The Fosse musical on Broadway in New York City on March 27, 1980. Fosse, center, is shown with performers, from left, Eileen Casey, Katherine Meloche, Gail Mae Ferguson, Gail Benedict, original member of the cast and Christine Colby.

Of course, we can’t go back to 1978. And like many reruns of shows from that era, “Dancin'” (now two acts, not three) lands on an unsettling sort of middle ground between past and present, the old ways and the news. . With its Americana, gangster flair and snippets of hooky pop songs, its retro aesthetic now reads a lot like an NBC or BBC variety special from back in the day, the kind of epic pastiche that disappeared with premium cable.

Dancing is inextricably linked to midtown Manhattan, and the New York of “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’” remains one of pimps, prostitutes and peep shops, thugs and purveyors of sleaze vying for the attention of Broadway patrons and celebrities. . Robert Brill’s set uses LED and video technology that was a figment of dreams in 1978, rendering the show at a previously impossible level of definition, but the visual iconography recedes nonetheless. And that’s despite the fact that “Dancin'” came before the end of Fosse’s career and also has to compete with the later “Fosse,” often regarded as the most definitive revision, even if that was a farewell and “Dancin’ “It was, both then and now, a daring risk.

Dancing is inextricably linked to midtown Manhattan, and the New York of “Bob Fosse's Dancin'” remains one of pimps, prostitutes and peep shops, thugs and purveyors of sleaze vying for the attention of Broadway patrons and celebrities. .

There is also another problem at stake. Fosse was all about unity, conformity and the release of his vision. Self-actualization and self-definition are very much in vogue these days, and there are moments in this show (including an awkward finale) when Fosse’s quotes feel uncomfortable in the mouth of a dancer who may or may not feel the same way.

That’s the defining (and, probably, some will say, debilitating) tension of the night: the legacy of perhaps America’s most famous, distinctive, and late choreographer, channeled through Cilento, one of the keepers of the flame, and the vitality of the young dancers. whose personal truths don’t have much to do with seducing the big spenders.

cast of "Bob Fosse's dance."

However, for longtime Fosse fans, that furious fight might be the most interesting of all. It was for me, though I suspect the show will also please tourists looking for, well, the kind of sexy, glamorous, sultry Broadway show that has mostly disappeared despite international audience demand.

Either way, it’s really something to see phenomenal artists like Peter John Chursin, whose dancing beauty blew my mind; Matti Love, a dancer who understands both vulnerability and power; Kolton Krause, who occupies the center of the stage; and Jovan Dansberry, a beautiful, graceful human being who you see realizing that he had so many choices in life and chose this path to follow instead.

Not everyone is at that level, but I could also be writing a lot more names to look up to. Frankly, the whole program reminded me strangely of ChatGPT. Here’s something you’ll probably never be able to touch, thanks to 1978 memories, thank God, thank Fosse.

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