The national tour of the musical Fosse, which just played the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati, is either satisfying or tedious, depending on your expectations and taste. This 1999 Tony Award winner for Best Musical is slick and well-produced, with a cast of relative unknowns displaying high-energy, bright smiles, and capable talent in a manner that satisfies. It's the show itself that can be a letdown, depending on one's sensibilities.
Fosse is a collage of dances created by the late Bob Fosse, who was responsible for legendary Broadway and film choreography for Pippin, Chicago, Cabaret, The Pajama Game, All That Jazz, and Sweet Charity. Numbers from each of these, and other productions, is included in this three-act revue. Mr. Fosse was famous for his unique style which included bent wrists, crooked ankles, black attire, and lots of creativity; all of those are prominent here.
Those looking for a story, some emotional attachment to characters, an evening of singing, or moments of humor will be disappointed. Fosse has no story or characters, and thus, nothing that draws us in emotionally. With only a few exceptions, there are no laughs to be found either. The biggest surprise to me was the lack of singing. There are some nice moments where the dances are teamed with vocals, and this is where the show shines, but there are too few of them. Numbers such as "Hey Big Spender", "Mr. Bojangles", "Steam Heat", and "Mein Herr" are the best of the evening.
Fosse could use some generous cutting. There are just so many angled ankles and wrists and shades of black, and all of them are repeated too many times for this reviewer's taste. Twenty-five minutes could have been omitted easily without losing an opportunity to witness a sampling of each style of Mr. Fosse's work.
On the other hand, if a theatergoer is simply looking for a well performed and good looking dance piece, Fosse is a perfect fit. The talented cast of close to thirty can't be faulted. Special mention needs to go to the female leads Reva Rice and Meg Gillentine, who both excelled throughout the night. The costumes, though mostly in shades of black and gray, were effective and appropriate, and the simple set served the show well. The finale of Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" was a fine way to end the show, with a portion of the orchestra on stage to complete the big band feel of the number.
It will be interesting to compare this show to the musical it beat out for the Best Musical Tony Award, when I see Parade later this month in Cleveland.
-- Scott Cain