Fosse/Verdon: The Best Real Life Clips of Bob, Gwen, Liza and Chita
Everything Old is New Again: Watch the real-life dance inspirations behind the acclaimed FX mini-series.
There are so many things to love about the FX mini-series Fosse/Verdon. First, there is Michelle Williams’ extraordinary performance as legendary Broadway dancer Gwen Verdon. Her performance elicits chorus after chorus of “Give her all the awards” each week on Twitter. (I’m not the only one who thinks the series should have been called “Verdon/Fosse!”) The rest of the cast, including Sam Rockwell as Fosse and Kelli Barrett channeling Liza Minnelli are also brilliantly bringing these iconic Broadway and film stars to life.
And of course there are the performances. The series began with dance recreations from the films Sweet Charity and Cabaret. Fosse’s iconic choreography still seems oddly fresh, even with all the hands, hats, suggestive shimmying and cheesy hippie styling.
When the music stops after the series finale on May 28, there’s still a treasure trove of classic clips fans and even the merely curious will want to see. Falling down the rabbit hole of articles, videos & clips from a favorite show or movie helps the buzz last a little bit longer.
Opening Sequence of All That Jazz (1979) The series finale focuses on Bob’s autobiographical film All That Jazz. Anybody who missed the 1970s and early ’80s can see what it was like in this gritty opening sequence from Fosse’s homage to his life, his death, and Federico Fellini All That Jazz with the now iconic George Benson reboot of “On Broadway.” Roy Scheider plays Fosse, but you can tell he and Rockwell were working with the same source material How Scheider was influenced by having the subject himself directing him is unclear, but he did say in an interview this will always be his favorite film.
Fans of the mini-series will recognize some of the characters here including stand-ins for Verdon and their daughter Nicole Fosse hanging out in the back row. The DVD re-issue dropped last week as part of the Criterion Collection, loaded with interviews and extra goodies it’s worth buying or maybe even getting a subscription to the Criterion Channel to see.
“Big Spender” from Sweet Charity (1966)
The film version of Fosse’s first feature film “Sweet Charity” may have lost millions at the box office, but “Big Spender” and “Rich Man’s Frug” went on to live lives of their own. They’re both examples of Fosse’s iconic style as a choreographer, and they are sensational. (And as the New York Times wryly noted, “It’s no accident that the best numbers — “Big Spender,” “Rich Man’s Frug” … exclude the star entirely, or put her into a supporting role. Depending on your tolerance level, these numbers might be worth the price of admission.” (Also, take note of Chita Rivera who has the last line zinger, “How’s about it, Palsy?”)
“Rich Man’s Frug” is the kind of stylized work Fosse was known and an opportunity to see how brilliantly Fosse’s choreography captures the style and the mood of the Swinging Sixties.
Pippin at the 1972 Tony awards: “Magic to Do”
Theater fans and even some non-fans might recognize this as Ultimate Iconic Fosse. This excerpt from the 1972 Tony Awards captures the spirit of this iconic ’70s musical in its full hippie-dippie glory. Ben Vereen is a joy to watch as is the rest of the original cast that includes Jill Clayburgh and Ann Reinking. If you don’t get chills watching Ben Vereen and the Fosse dancers, check your pulse. Seriously.
Fosse/Verdon Dance Class: “Whatever Lola Wants” Medley, 1962
The series’ second episode recreates the first time Fosse and Verdon met in a rehearsal studio for Damn Yankees. Bob teaches Gwen through the steps for what would become one of her signature songs “Whatever Lola Wants.” Fans will love this real-life simulation filmed for a TV variety show in 1962. Verdon is young and giddy, and Fosse can’t seem to stop talking (maybe it’s the Dexedrine?) and they are two of the most charismatic dancers you will ever see. It’s no wonder Lin-Manuel Miranda and his partners wanted to turn their lives into a mini-series.
And now enjoy Gwen performing “Lola” in the movie version of “Damn Yankees.” As her daughter, Nicole said, “Mom made goofy sexy.”
The most adorable Fosse Verdon medley ever in the world (1962) On what looks like that same TV appearance, Bob and Gwen perform snippets from some of their hit shows and a brief bit from Fosse’s then current project, How to Succeed in Business. In addition to the absolute adorableness of the very young Bob and Gwen is a bit of dancing from Bob that is pretty damn impressive. Watching this, I was not entirely sure why Fosse wasn’t the next Fred Astaire he dreamed of becoming. He was terrific.
Liza and All Those Chairs (Cabaret, 1972)
Viewers who may only know Liza Minnelli from her comedy turn on Arrested Development may not have realized that she won an Oscar for Cabaret in 1973 and like her mother Judy Garland, she had a remarkable singing voice. Take a moment to watch her lead the Fosse dancers in the original version of “Mein Herr” that was recreated in the first episode of the series (with special reinforcements added to the chairs.) Prepare to be very impressed that no chairs were overturned in the production of this number. As one of the YouTube commenters noted, “Liza is only 5'4”, but she’s 6 feet tall when she’s performing.”
Liza sings “Nowadays” from Chicago New York Times theater critic, Clive Barnes, was a lukewarm fan of Chicago, which he described in 1975 as “Bob Fosse’s Brechtian outpost of glamour, squalor and sublime discontent.” But he cheered up a bit when Liza Minnelli stepped into Gwen’s role as Roxie when the star was recovering from throat surgery. “One would hesitate to designate Miss Minnelli as beautifully decadent,” Barnes says, “but her wide‐eyed innocence, belting voice and knowing manner all help to give her portrayal of the doe‐eyed, baby‐faced killer, Roxie Hart, lovable reverberations and schmaltzy bitterness.” Liza gave a stunning performance of the last-minute finale number “Nowadays” on a morning talk show that features the composers, John Kander and Fred Ebb and a surprise appearance from her temporary Chicago co-star, Chita Rivera. The Broadway World message board also has several first-person accounts from folks who saw the show with Liza.
Bonus: Nicole Fosse’s Instagram Nicole Fosse is the director of the Verdon Fosse Legacy dedicated to preserving her parent’s work. The IG page for the organization is filled with treasures from Ms. Fosse’s private collection of photographs and memorabilia. Here are the receipts Gwen saved from her trip to New York to find an appropriate Gorilla suit. Thank God there was no Marie Kondo to tell Gwen to toss out things that do not bring her joy.