Fosse/Verdon a masterpiece for theater nerds only

Courtesy of FX via Handout/TNS
Michelle Williams (left) and Sam Rockwell (right) star as Verdon and Fosse.

Hallie Lauer | News Editor

04/11/19

Sweet Charity. Chicago. Cabaret. These shows and many others have become impossible to separate from their esteemed choreographer Bob Fosse.

FX’s newest miniseries, Fosse/Verdon dives into the life of Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and his wife Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams), who was equally as famous in her own right.

Produced by big names like Lin Manuel-Miranda, writer of hit Broadway show Hamilton, Steven Levenson, writer of Dear Evan Hansen and many others, this show was bound to bring out all the stops.

Their daughter, Nicole Fosse, is listed in the credits as a co-producer, but as pointed out in a tweet by Miranda, she was heavily involved in every aspect of the show’s filming.

Starting with the number “Hey Big Spender” from the film adaptation of Sweet Charity the audience is given a glimpse of the obsessiveness Fosse has over the numbers he choreographs – much to the dismay of the movie producers.

The couple’s relationship was tumultuous, often times producers didn’t want Fosse without Verdon, much to his displeasure. For a while, while Fosse is filming Cabaret in Munich, he starts an affair with the translator, which the audience is given a hint that this isn’t the first time things like this have happened, and Verdon knows it.

In one scene, Fosse calls her to come to Munich to help him with the film and she says, “am I going to be unhappy when I get there?” The scene cuts back to Fosse, sitting on the edge of his bed, with another woman laying next to him. He says, “of course not.”

The show exists in alternating flashbacks, with title screens that say things like “Munich, 14 Years Left.” At the end of the first episode, we are not sure what is “left” or what happens when we reach zero, but you can bet that they have hooked me enough to stick around and find out.

The audience is given a small insight into Fosse’s life through flashbacks. One starts with Fosse a young boy in tap shoes, dancing for an instructor that puts Abby Lee Miller to shame. “I can replace you a hundred times over,” he tells the young dancer. The audience is led to assume that this unnamed teacher is the reason Fosse became the perfectionist he is shown to be in other scenes.

Williams portrayal of Verdon is phenomenal. Her mannerisms, the way she speaks and the way she dances all mimics that of the real Gwen Verdon to a T. Rockwell also does a great job with Fosse’s character. Most impressively he manages to deliver all of his lines with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, without any words ever sounding garbled.

I was entirely awestruck for the 60 minutes the first episode ran and I am anxiously awaiting next Tuesday night when I can see the next installment. Unfortunately, the show wasn’t perfect.

I was in the show Chicago once. I knew who Fosse was, learned about him and even danced his numbers. However, I had never heard of Verdon and without my prior knowledge of Fosse, a few things in this show would’ve been lost on me.

Now, this was only one episode, so this could be something that is going to be remedied in the over the course of the miniseries. But right now, I would only recommend this show to my fellow theater nerds with prior knowledge.

 

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