BOB FOSSE’S DANCIN’: Dance 10, Plot 3 — Review
Let’s start with this: if you want high-energy, show-stopping dancing, look no further than Dancin’, which opened tonight at the Music Box Theatre. In its first revival since its 1978 premiere, an insanely talented group of dancers take on some of Bob Fosse’s most brilliant work, and it's a beautiful sight to behold.
When it originally opened at the Broadhurst Theatre 44 years ago, critics heralded the musical revue; it went on to be nominated for seven Tony Awards and Fosse went home with a trophy for Best Choreography. After a limited out-of-town tryout at San Diego’s Old Globe last year, Dancin’ makes its triumphant return to the Broadway stage, now helmed by original cast member Wayne Cilento, who is credited for direction and musical staging.
What I admire about this production is that it knows exactly what it is. A monologue at the top of the show states, “the viewing of too many musical comedies with sentimental and over romantic plots may cause serious and sometimes incurable damage to the playgoer and the critics’ standards. Therefore, what you are about to see is an almost plotless musical.” And boy, do they deliver on that promise.
What follows is two and a half hours of non-stop dance, from lyrical to ballet, with plenty of jazz hands to go around. Cilento has switched up the pieces, including reviving cut dances and rearranging the order but never faltering from Fosse’s original choreography. Small vignettes make up the evening, some with just movement, others with singing, sometimes minimal talking here and there.
From favorites in the original, such as “Mr. Bojangles” and “Crunchy Granola Suite,” to the famous “Dancin’ Man” suite, which is a lovely tribute to Fred Astaire, the dancing is breathtaking. One of my favorites of the night is the high octane “Big Noise From Winnetka” featuring the incredible Mattie Love, Nando Moreland, and Pedro Garza (who stood in for Tony d’Alelio during my performance.) Each dancer, lovely in their own right, is given individual moments to shine. Karli Dinardo and Manuel Herrera were always standouts for me.
Big City Mime was performed very briefly during its out-of-town run in Boston back in the 70s before being cut for its transfer to New York. Cilento has now added back in the 15-minute lyrical piece that explores a new tourist (Peter John Chursin) arriving in the Big Apple for the first time and coming into contact with prostitutes, librarians, and pimps. It's here that we get glimpses of some of Fosse’s more iconic dances with little nods to Sweet Charity and even the Manson Trio — performed for the first time on this stage since Pippin played the Music Box a decade ago.
Easily the crowd-favorite is the Act II opener, “Sing, Sing, Sing,” which brings the intensity and magic of big brass bands front and center. We then have more puzzling segments including America which includes anthems such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy" and “The Stars and Stripes Forever, ” performed while the cast is dressed in post-modern futuristic clothing. The show ends with a segment dedicated to the Big Deal, one of Fosse’s final works on Broadway in the ‘80s which brought to life 1930’s Chicago crime mobsters.
Set on a bare dark gray scaffolding set by Robert Brill, and paired with Finn Ross’ exuberant video design and David Grill’s borderline-blinding lighting, it gives the group of 16 dancers the space to let the dancing be the star.
If now is the moment we decide to bring one of the most celebrated choreographers of all time back to the spotlight—he is never too far from it, with Chicago still running a few blocks up—I really wish we could have seen greater body diversity represented on that stage. This was an opportune time for Cilento to make a powerful statement for the production and show that anyone can master the art of Fosse, not just those we typically see on a stage.
Bob Fosse once said, “Dance expresses joy better than anything else.” There is no doubt that joy is exuding from the Music Box Stage eight times a week. If you want to see some of the best triple-threats in the biz, head on over to experience some true Fosse magic.
Dancin’ is now in performances at the Music Box Theatre on West 45th Street in New York City. For tickets and more information, visit here.