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Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 09:05 GMT
Fosse's set to razzle dazzle

Tribute musical Fosse features a 28-strong case

By BBC News Online's Gareth Herincx

A tribute to dance guru Bob Fosse is set to become London's hottest ticket when it opens in the West End next week.

Stage and screen legend Bob Fosse
The smash hit musical, which won three Tony Awards last year, is a celebration in song and dance of the Broadway and Hollywood legend who died suddenly in 1987.

The show, which is currently previewing at the Prince of Wales Theatre, is packed with 40 of Fosse's trademark numbers from many of his most famous musicals, including Sweet Charity, The Pajama Game and Cabaret.

Dance pioneer

The routines include All That Jazz and Me And My Baby from Chicago, which is enjoying a sell-out run at the Adelphi Theatre, plus Razzle Dazzle and Big Spender from Sweet Charity and The Pajama Game classic Steam Heat.

Dancer Nick Winston, a member of the 28-strong cast for the London show, was only 12 when Fosse died of a heart attack.

Fosse dancer Nick Winston was also a Chicago star
But the man who redefined stage and film musicals left an unmistakeable legacy - all sex, bowler hats, white gloves, angularity and slow-motion.

"I was in Chicago in London so I'm quite familiar with the style and a lot of the routines are from films," explains 25-year-old Winston, who is in no doubt about what made Fosse so special.

"It was the incredible wit and real intelligence behind his choreography - apart from the fact that it was sexy. Every step means something - they are not just steps for the sake of doing steps.

"He used performers as dancers, actors and singers - so the dancers actually carried the storyline in most of his shows which was a big difference."

Fosse the musical won three Tonys on Broadway
Winston, who made his West End debut at the age of nine opposite Rudolph Nureyev in Don Quixote at the London Coliseum, appears in 15 numbers including the showstopping Steam Heat.

Ann Reinking and Chet Walker have recreated Fosse moves for the show, while Fosse's widow and dance partner Gwen Verdon has acted as artistic consultant.

The Fosse way

Born Robert Louis Fosse in Chicago on 23 June,1927, Fosse began his career in vaudeville before making his Broadway debut in 1950's Dance Me A Song.

Sell-out: Chicago is also running in the West End
His career in choreography took off four years later with The Pajama Game, which was revived by Simon Callow in London's West End last year, and won him his first Tony Award.

Fosse hit Hollywood in 1953, dancing and singing in three musicals, including Kiss Me Kate and Damn Yankees where he met Gwen Verdon, who would soon become his third wife.

By 1959, he was directing his first musical for the Broadway stage, Redhead, starring his new wife. The highpoint of their professional relationship came in 1966, when Fosse created Sweet Charity for her.

Movie debut

Fosse directed his first movie three years later when he translated Sweet Charity to the big screen, starring Shirley MacLaine - a former Fosse chorus girl.

Cabaret starring Liza Minnelli was a Fosse movie hit
His next film project was probably his finest.

In 1972 he made Cabaret, starring Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York. Cabaret won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Minnelli), Best Supporting Actor (Grey) and Best Director for Fosse.

Over the next few years Fosse won an unprecedented two Tonys and three Emmys for directing and choreographing Pippin on Broadway and producing, directing and choreographing Liza With a Z.

In 1974, Fosse directed Lenny his first dramatic film which was a biography of tragic comedian Lenny Bruce, played by Dustin Hoffman.

Chicago in 1975 was his next big stage smash, while 1978's Dancin' was his last Broadway production. The largely autobiographical film All That Jazz followed the following year.

A chain-smoker who relied increasingly on drink and drugs, Fosse lived life to the full. Even so, his death of a heart attack aged 60 was still a shock. But as the Fosse show demonstrates, his legacy lives on.

Fosse opens at London's Prince of Wales Theatre on 8 February.

Photographs of the London production of Fosse courtesy of Catherine Ashmore.

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