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I would NOT transfer Bob Fosse's 'DANCIN'
Last Edit: DistantDrumming 06:22 pm EDT 05/20/22
Posted by: DistantDrumming 06:18 pm EDT 05/20/22

Not that anyone asked me, but I wouldn't transfer Bob Fosse's Dancin'.  I take no pleasure in saying this, but, with its moveable scaffolding set, electric neon lighting, smoke machines, unflattering and weirdly bland costumes and so-so dancing....  it is glorified cruise ship entertainment. Something you'd see at Bally's in Vegas in the mid 90s.

Despite some awkward attempts to update elements of the show for 2022, it feels at once dated and of no specific time. And, Lord, what little dialogue the show has will make you cringe in embarrassment for the actor/dancers.  And I say that as someone who loves a ton of Broadway output from the 70s. To me, with the exception of an occasional dance moment or two, the highlights are really a terrific 14-piece band (especially their killer rhythm section) and a couple of very strong vocalists. But, when the highlights of a show called Dancin' are the orchestra and a couple of the vocalists... something's off. 


It showed me that perhaps Fosse's work is best appreciated within an existing show -- within the context of a real story and character. And when you try and shoehorn that choreography into loosely sketched, disconnected and, at times, discombobulated stories and themes.. the effect is not the same. The slick, powerful, sly, wickedly funny or sharp tone of his work in Chicago, Cabaret, Liza with a Z, All That Jazz, Pippin and Sweet Charity are barely glimpsed at here. I honestly don't think this show does anything positive for Fosse's legacy. 
Sure, there was 1999's Fosse -- but that revue seemed to capture the Fosse spirit in those brief moments from existing shows. It also had one critical element this show is missing -- world class dancers who truly seemed to 'get' Fosse -- yes, because several of them had worked directly with him.  

I think a lot of Dancin's faults could be overlooked if, underneath, there was truly great dance. But, too often, I just felt like I was watching choreography being dutifully replicated -- not truly lived in.  At times I felt like I'd been brought to a friend's high budget talent show -- 'The Graduating Class of 2022 Presents... FOSSE'S DANCIN!"  


That magical x-factor you see in the incredible dancing of some "original" Fosse dancers from the 70s, 80s and 90s is almost never seen here. In fact, one of those original talents -- himself a great dancer at one time, and the director of this production, Wayne Cilento -- must be partly to blame. His answer to one of the interview questions in the show program is very telling. (See the link below)



It sounds nice in theory, but  in practice, it's resulted in sometimes sloppy and half-hearted attempts at that signature Fosse style. While I get what he's saying, I think it's certainly possible to get those signature Fosse moves down perfectly while still imbuing the performance with heart, personality and individuality. It's not a binary choice between the two.  

One curiosity for the Fosse completists out there, the show is capped with about 20 minutes of excerpts from The Big Deal. I have to imagine this will be the only occasion in our lifetimes to see excerpts from The Big Deal replicated in a professional stage production. That MAY make this worth the ticket price for you.  That said, I think you're better off watching the clip of the original Big Deal cast (including Wayne Cilento) performing on the Tonys.  

I can't imagine NY audiences embracing this show... without some major retooling. For what it's worth, the San Diego audience seemed to have packed a near sold-out house on a weekday evening and they whooped and hollered and clapped pretty rapturously for this cast. So, I think I'm in the minority here!
Link From the Program: Wayne Cilento's comments on his approach to choreographing the dancers
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