The Craptacular: Remedial Queens: The Five “Bs” of Bob Fosse

Originally published on The Craptacular.

Even though Bob Fosse’s been dead longer than many of our readers have been alive, I can’t imagine that anyone here doesn’t have at least a passing familiarity with his work. After all, two of his signature shows (Pippin and Chicago) are currently running on Broadway, each in a hit revival received even more enthusiastically than the original. And what do those revivals have in common? Both took great pains to create choreography “in the style of Bob Fosse,” including recreating Fosse’s own steps for big numbers in each – “The Manson Trio” (the dance break in “Glory”) in Pippin and “Hot Honey Rag” in Chicago. With no disrespect to the other great choreographers of Broadway, while original dances from De Mille, Robbins, and Bennett have been recreated, no one else created a style so recognizable and enviable that people today still strive to work (and market their work as) “in the style of” anyone other than Fosse.

Given Fosse’s enduring popularity and fascinating personal life—more on that in a sec—I predict that Sam Wasson’s excellent new biography will be as in demand as Pippin tickets. The 700-page opus takes us from Fosse’s funeral back to his childhood dancing in the slimiest burlesque houses Chicago had to offer, through the romances and bromances of the showman who made history as the first (and still only) to win the best director Oscar, Tony, and Emmy awards all within a year. Continue reading

Advertisements

Jewschool: Making the Stars of David Sing

Originally published on Jewschool.com

Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish debuted in 2005 and has been a perennial bar mitzvah gift ever since. The book, which features interviews by Abigail Pogrebin with about five dozen celebrities about their Jewish identities, is now an off-Broadway musical. Pogrebin is no stranger to the musical stage; she chronicled her experience as an original cast member of the infamous Stephen Sondheim flop Merrily We Roll Along in her 2011 Kindle Single Showstopper. This morning I chatted with her about the experience of writing Stars of David, both book and musical, and how her evolving Jewish identity has shaped the project.

In the introduction to the book, she discusses that part of the impetus for the project was that Jewish identity had crept up on her. She was married to a Jewish man, had two children approaching the ages when they might want to know something about what being Jewish meant, and she realized that she didn’t have an answer to that question. “I wasn’t necessarily honest with myself about why I started the book in the sense that I didn’t know how at sea I was, in terms of my own Jewish identity, when I approached famous people,” Pogrebin said. “I think sometimes stories are generated by some subconscious impulse to understand something for yourself. And I don’t want to over-analyze my motivations in starting the book, but I would say that having these frank conversations with some of our highest achievers made me look much more candidly at myself, and I realized I hadn’t answered a lot of the questions I was asking, personally.”

Continue reading

The Craptacular: Remedial Queens: Smile

Originally published on The Craptacular.

When I moved to New York in February, I was thrilled to learn that one of the most notorious flops in Broadway history, Moose Murders, would be receiving its first New York revival off-off-Broadway. I excitedly bought my ticket and headed down to Alphabet City (OMG just like in Rent!) to the theater, which looked a little like the rec hall at the Sharon Community Center where I made my community theater debut as the Munchkin Coroner in a suburban Massachusetts production of The Wizard of Oz when I was seven years old. Before I left the theater, I tweeted:

All of this serves as a preamble to today’s column, which is about my trip last week to see another notorious ’80s-era flop, Smile, which just concluded a run off-off-Broadway in a concert staging by the Musicals Tonight company. There are, at most, five reasons why anyone cares about Smile nearly thirty years after it played Broadway for just over a month: Continue reading