With a new running time of little more than two hours — and only one intermission — “Fosse” has been wisely trimmed down for the road. But although aficionados may miss the nixed “Shoeless Joe,” “Nowadays” and “Hot Honey Rag,” the leaner sizzle makes good sense for the subscriber-heavy hinterlands where a non-narrative dance revue still represents a gamble. Although the touring cast of 28 (down four from Gotham) does not come with much musical or emotional weight, the dancing chops are very much in place in this new national company. And with standout Terace Jones offering deliciously erotic interpretations of such focused Fosse treats as “Percussion 4,” audiences in sophisticated urban markets will likely feel like they are buying classy, top-drawer fare.
Now presented by SFX (which bought this touring show from Livent before acquiring the rest of the company’s assets), “Fosse” is clearly not going to be a huge touring blockbuster. Sources and early grosses indicate that the run in Chicago will be far shorter than Livent had originally projected.
It could be even tougher elsewhere: The honored choreographer is not a household name all across America, and there are no star names in a show that was always conceived as an ensemble-driven celebration. B.O. prospects in smaller cities are going to depend on how well local media educate the potential aud about the name behind the dancing, and how many marketing dollars SFX puts behind its show.
That said, the touring cast (many of whom are “Chicago” vets) is offering near-flawless re-creations of most of the show’s lineup of Fosse highlights. As is often the case with Fosse-driven shows, the cast is notably older and more experienced than one often encounters these days in road-show ensembles. That’s a refreshing change.
Since it’s both familiar and darkly sexual, “Big Spender” was the biggest crowd pleaser in Chicago, thanks in no small measure to the quality of the women at the bar, all of whom display astonishing discipline and technique. “Crunchy Granola Suite” and the first-act finale, “I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man,” also work especially well in this touring rendition.
Current duds included “Razzle Dazzle,” which looks like a lame re-creation of the feathery choreographic stylings of “Chicago,” which (in its namesake city, at least) are now very familiar. But the biggest problem is old “Mr. Bojangles.” Julio Monge has a tuneful tenor throat, but he flattened out both the narrative and the emotion behind the potentially show-stopping heart-breaker. Since this is the last major number of the evening, it could use a lot of fast work.
Appealing lead warbler Reva Rice has moved into the road cast from Broadway, and she does a proficient job of reminding us that “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries.” Aside from the magnificent Jones (a real revelation here), other dance standouts include the mature and proficient Christine Colby Jacques, Sara Henry and Greg Reuter. Linda Bowen is also a very competent presence.
Production values are sufficient to fill big road houses with panache, and there has also been no stinting on the size of the orchestrations, which offer a lusher sound than many competing shows. A high-end (although reasonably affordable) possibility for presenters looking to anchor their seasons with Broadway pizzazz, “Fosse” represents a bold but honorable choice.