Choreographer and director BOB FOSSE died in 1987, leaving behind Broadway works like Sweet Charity and Pippin and the movies Cabaret and All That Jazz. He also left behind a small group of people who were linked to him personally and professionally, some of whom seem forever tied to his work. They are the stars of The Fosse Connection.
Dancer GWEN VERDON was both wife and inspiration to Fosse. Verdon had a leading role in the 1955 Broadway show Damn Yankees, which Fosse choreographed, and the two worked together many times after that; most famously Fosse gave her the lead role in his 1966 Broadway showSweet Charity. The two were married in 1960 and had a daughter, Nicole. Fosse’s philandering was famous, yet Verdon stayed married to him despite his many flings. The two were separated in 1971 but remained close colleagues; Verdon was with him in 1987 when he collapsed and died in Washington, D.C. while prepping a revival of Sweet Charity. Verdon later served as artistic advisor to the 1998 Broadway retrospective Fosse.
On the retrospective Fosse, Verdon worked with ANN REINKING, one of Fosse’s most famous dancers as well as his lover. Reinking danced in the Broadway cast of Pippin. Later she replaced Verdon in the role of Roxie Hart in the original version of Chicago. In 1979 Fosse cast her as the long-suffering girlfriend — playing herself, more or less — in his mostly-autobiographical movie All That Jazz. (Fosse himself was played by Roy Scheider; the Verdon role was taken by actress Leland Palmer, who also had starred in Pippin.) Reinking choreographed and starred in the 1996 Broadway revival of Chicago and has since become known as the torchbearer for Fosse’s distinctive style of choreography.
(Photo by Jack Mitchell, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, via Wikimedia Commons.)
BEN VEREEN also starred in Pippin. Bob Fosse reportedly fashioned the role of Leading Player with Vereen in mind, and both men won Tony Awards for the show. Pippin gave Vereen a reputation as a triple threat — actor, dancer and singer — and he became one of the flashiest stars of the 1970s. Fosse also featured Vereen in All That Jazz as the wry observer O’Connor Flood. Despite a long career, Vereen remains best known for his glory days with Fosse; in 2001 he was back on Broadway starring with Reinking in the show Fosse, a retrospective of the choreographer’s work.
LIZA MINNELLI had a glorious year of work with Bob Fosse in 1972. She starred in his movie Cabaret, winning an Oscar for her portrayal of the flighty Sally Bowles. Fosse also won an Oscar as best director. The same year the two shared an Emmy Award for their song-and-dance TV special Liza With a Z. (Fosse also won two Tony Awards in 1972, without Minnelli, for his Broadway show Pippin.) Cabaret became the signature role of Minnelli’s career.
A Liza Minnelli sidelight: her first husband was the singer and songwriter PETER ALLEN; the two were still married but separated when she worked with Fosse in Cabaret and Liza With A Z. Years later, Bob Fosse used Allen’s tune “Everything Old is New Again” for a key dance scene featuring Ann Reinking in All That Jazz.