Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, is running from April 19-May 29, 2022. It was a dream of Wayne Cilento, one of the original cast members, to put this show back on the boards for those who missed it in 1978. Cilento did the Direction and Musical staging with the help of Christine Colby Jacques’ “reproduction of Mr. Fosse’s Choreography” and Associate Director/Musical Stager Corine McFadden Herrera.
The show, when done on Broadway, was an Iconic musical pastiche of the truly brilliant work of Bob Fosse and his love of dance and dancers. He did this with his astute choice of remarkable Broadway “Gypsies” who not only had the chops to do it but knew his work from the inside out. There was nothing more powerful then when a singular dancer, the likes of Sandahl Bergman, walked onstage raised her hand and with breadth and breath…gave the downbeat to begin the show; or fabulous Ann Reinking’s solo in Sing Sing Sing. All the rest was a full “10“ of technical excellence, all with the powerful understanding of “Bobby’s” work, rehearsed and delivered by his right hand task mistress, Kathryn Doby. Fosse’s personal interest in finding the dancer’s innate ability to blend differences in soul, size, shape and technique inspired them to dance as though their life depended on it supported by Fosse’s unique directorial brilliance.
Mr. Cilento made a few slips in judgement. Firstly, this show was not “Dancin” The Show, but a review of segments of Fosse’s choreographic life. This was done in an effort to update the show for an audience that actually wanted to see the original “Fosse’s DANCIN,” as will the tougher and in-the-know New York Audiences. If Cilento thought that it was important to have a new more contemporary version, then why not go straight to Hip Hop or Dancing with the Stars and rename it? It’s clear, if something is a classic it is best to respect the work unless there’s a truly better idea. This does take digging to revitalize something that has been hidden away for 44 years. Perhaps this is a purest concept, but as in Robbins, “West Side Story”, we have to ask, was an updated remake better? Did it add anything? There is certainly a difference of opinion which cannot be answered today by the artist himself. There are even some decisions to cut a number that Fosse at the time decided was not up to his own standards. So why put it back in? However this, after all, is an out-of-town tryout, and perhaps a creative experiment of pulling everything out of the trunk and trying it on, just in case… or is there actually no real point of view just a gumbo of numbers that would be nice to add?
Cilento alluded to giving the dancers more sway over their dancemaking. This serves as a complication, since he was the one who had worked with Fosse himself and is an integral part of that family tree. Since Fosse was a master of subtlety, Cilento’s job was to pass on that legacy to the young performers who had not experienced his work face-to-face. Quite a responsibility, and in itself, the piece would never get old, because it was the real thing.
This does not mean there were no redeeming qualities to the show. The set by Tony Award Nominee, Robert Brill…his name was almost too perfect (Brill Building). His work was stainless steel structural steeples that had the big city New York sensibility, nicely mobile and adaptable in framing and hiding parts of the stage and characters.
Costume designs by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, known for their costuming for dancers, used streetwear, glitz, and the Rudi Gernreich-type designed leotards in muted flesh tones were aptly sexy.
It was clear there were performers who lit up the stage out of sheer ability and heart. The dancers were noteworthy, bringing energy and talent to the company. The Spirit of Bojangles’ moving version was done by Yeman Brown, while the terrific well rounded performers, Manuel Herrera with Jacob Guzman did a great tap duet and were all-in-all terrific performers. Khori Michelle Petinaud’s, Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries, could not be ignored for her depth and acting ability. Talented dancers, Tony D’Alelio, Ron Todorowski, and Gabriel Hyman shine through clearly in their group and solo work. Kolton Krouse’s tour de force in “Spring Chicken” was definitely not Fosse… but it was more his stunning, powerful, and full hearted version of what looked like Michael Bennett’s “Music and the Mirror.” Then the fearless Ioana Alfonso and Yani Marin along with the almost always strong cast, Peter John Chursin, Dylis Croman, Jōvan Dansberry, Karli Dinardo, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Krystal Mackie, Nando Morland, Khori, Ida Saki, Michaeljon Slinger, rallied in Sing, Sing, Sing, energizing the audience. So much so, that it could have been the closer to the show, as it was originally.
It is a challenge to put such an Iconic dancer’s show together because the difficulty is in rediscovering the underbelly of the concepts and original intention of the show. Let’s face it, if it was a hit, it needed to be preserved and performed. This show may or may not resonate but because there’s time to renovate, “now’s the time. Wishing and hoping for a DANCIN Broadway run finally after four decades of hoping to see it on Broadway again.
For more information about The Old Globe Theatre and to purchase tickets, please visit their WEBSITE.
Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Jacob Guzman in Bob Fosse’s ‘Dancin’- Photo by Julieta Cervantes
Please consider donating to LA Dance Chronicle HERE.