And one and two, and shoulder roll — that’s right — and walk and walk and fingers out –even more — and touch the head and lift the hat — fingers out! even more! — and smile! “Fosse,” the musical revue presenting much of the late choreographer’s most memorable work, is a vibrant panoply of pelvic thrusts and extended limbs, all wrapped up in a slick package that’s appropriately glitzy. (What would Fosse be, after all, without the black clothes, white gloves and bowler hats?) The show captures Fosse’s special brand of showmanship — his wit, lyricism and sensuality — that, more than a decade after his death and two decades after his prime work, retains its ability to surprise. The musicals he choreographed feel dated now, but the dancing doesn’t.
The show includes numbers from the various eras of Fosse’s career, carefully and lovingly re-created by Fosse collaborators Ann Reinking and Chet Walker, with help from Gwen Verdon. This touring version of the Tony-winning Broadway show boasts a young ensemble with plenty of energy and glittering teeth. The company’s been together since September of last year, and it shows in the taut polish of the group numbers and easygoing sense of camaraderie in the transitions.
The show has a strong flow, although it doesn’t have a definite shape, and the creators didn’t feel the need to fill in any narrative background for the individual selections; designers Santo Loquasto (sets and costumes) and Andrew Bridge (lighting) do an excellent job of setting the tone.
Not every number sparkles –the middle of the show sags a bit, and even the act one closer, “I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man,” feels a bit rote. But for long stretches, the show is mesmerizing.
Chanteuse Reva Rice belts out “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” at the top of the show, and reprises it much later to let the audience know we’re about to have the grand finale. And the finale — from the show “Dancin’ ” and choreographed to “Sing, Sing, Sing” — is grand indeed.
In between, there are some surefire winners, like “Steam Heat,” which demonstrates that, even early in his career (the number comes from the 1954 musical “The Pajama Game”), Fosse had a natural eclecticism, a sense of how to bring jazz rhythms to popular dance. The three dancers, Linda Bowen (who with Rice gets top billing), Matt Loehr and Mark Swanhart, all relish the expressive flair of the piece.
And, of course, there are the best known numbers, like “Big Spender” from “Sweet Charity,” and “Mein Herr” from “Cabaret,” both of which are especially interesting for how unelaborate but exact the choreography is, for how Fosse very much served the songs in his work rather than overpowering them.
There are also numbers where it’s clear that Fosse was capable of overpowering the music when he wanted to, like with the retro “Crunchy Granola Suite” –which verges appealingly on the tacky — or the exceptionally erotic “Take Off With Us” from “All That Jazz.”
The most memorable number is a solo piece performed early on by Terace Jones, a tall, long-limbed, black dancer who is the only performer of this group whose presence is immediately felt the moment he steps onstage. His solo, “Percussion 4” from “Dancin’,” is elegant and wild at once, filled with leaps and spins and trademark Fosse sashays.
Jones makes it feel as if the choreographer designed the dance for him, which is an impressive feat. Other performers get a chance to shine, but never as brightly.