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79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And that's showbiz, baby!
This happens to be one of PBS' Great Performances Dance in America series' greatest realizations of a Broadway show and, more importantly, I think one of the most significant documentations of Bob Fosse's choreographic cannon.
Here you have the authority of Ben Vereen and Ann Reinking peforming in or recreating some of their original stage numbers. One of the...
Published on February 6, 2002 by Danny Coughlin

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95 of 96 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fosse Without the Razzmatazz
Let me start by saying I'm a huge fan of the work of Bob Fosse. Let me also say that I saw FOSSE live on Bway a few weeks after it opened, with the wonderful Valarie Pettiford opening the show with "Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries" and with a cast that was so precise, so together in their performing of the choreography it really would have been hard to beat that...
Published on February 20, 2002 by S. Sittig


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95 of 96 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fosse Without the Razzmatazz, February 20, 2002
By 
This review is from: Fosse [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Let me start by saying I'm a huge fan of the work of Bob Fosse. Let me also say that I saw FOSSE live on Bway a few weeks after it opened, with the wonderful Valarie Pettiford opening the show with "Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries" and with a cast that was so precise, so together in their performing of the choreography it really would have been hard to beat that experience.
Unfortunately, this filmed version of the show, filmed towards the end of the show's run, with Ben Vereen and Ann Reinking in the cast, turned out to be a huge disappointment for this fan.
The energy is definitely palpable, and a few numbers like "I Wanna Be A Dancin' Man", "Big Spender", "Cruncy Granola Suite", "Steam Heat" and "Shoeless Joe From Hannibal Mo." work wonderfully on the small screen and display the necessary Fosse flair as well as precision required.
I wish I could say the same about the other numbers. "Bye Bye Blackbird" is a mess, almost unrecognizable from the original version from LIZA WITH A 'Z" (which I have thanks to a friend who taped it many years ago when it aired on PBS.)and I'm afraid to say this was mostly due to Ben Vereen's inability to perform like he used to. Too many changes were made in the original choreography to accomodate his current physical limitations.
I'm not saying a man who has gone through what he has should be expected to perform/dance just like when he was 20. That would be absurd. But at some point, it almost seems best to be clever about how/when you use an ageing star. Vereen does wonderfully with "The Manson Trio" from PIPPIN, and with "Me and My Shadow" and "Razzle Dazzle", where his movements are smaller, more simple and more acting-based. He especially excels in "Mr. Bojangles", where his real life story lends a certain gravitas to a number I must confess I always found a bit maudlin.
But unfortunately, Vereen's dancing in some other places is strained and just really painful to watch. I wish it weren't so, but it's true. It would have been best if he had stepped out for some of the more complex numbers and allowed the younger dancers to display the Fosse steps more accurately. That being said, I think having Vereen open and close the show with "Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries" works well and his vocal performance on the song is unique and beautifully delivered.
Reinking, wisely, does not try to recreate her peak dancing years, but instead, acts more as a narrator and conduit for Fosse's specific style, appearing only in "Big Spender" and in the short transitional segment, "Fosse's World".
The other problem with this program is that the dancers that ARE at their peak, and should know better, are often not together and lack precision. Not just individually, but as a group. (This would particularly distress Fosse himself, I'm sure).
Numbers like "The Rich Man's Frug", "I Gotcha" (the two men are particularly unimpressive in this one), "Blackbird" and even the once stunning "Sing, Sing, Sing" that closes the show, lack the luster they once had when coached by Fosse and are several notches below the quality I witnessed when FOSSE had just opened on Broadway.
No one loves Fosse and Reinking and Vereen more than I do, but this video was really just a big disappointment for me. I wish the original cast at its dancing peak had been recorded back in 1998/99, instead of this sort of "last minute" recording of a show that was about to close.
Fosse deseves better and those who follow his work know so. A student of his would do better to watch ALL THAT JAZZ and the several other films and T.V. shows that showcase Fosse's work.
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79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And that's showbiz, baby!, February 6, 2002
By 
This review is from: Fosse (DVD)
This happens to be one of PBS' Great Performances Dance in America series' greatest realizations of a Broadway show and, more importantly, I think one of the most significant documentations of Bob Fosse's choreographic cannon.
Here you have the authority of Ben Vereen and Ann Reinking peforming in or recreating some of their original stage numbers. One of the reasons I wanted to see this show was to see Vereen recreate the "Glory" number from Pippin. Vereen sings "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries" - a favorite song of Fosse's from Dancin' - imbuing an added level of relevance for anyone who knows Vereen's life and career. Vereen and Reinking bring to this performance a certain history and magic, a passing on of the tradition. It is moving to see them pass it on to a new generation of Broadway dancers. This is a great cast of dancer/singers. To name a few - Rachel Rak's powerhouse sexy performance of "I Gotcha", Brad Anderson's athletic grace and angelic voice, and Ken Allen's dead on precision stands out in every number.
And the evolution of Fosse's choreographic language becomes striking seen in this context, from increasingly jazz-influenced style of "Shoeless Joe" and "Steam Heat" of the 50s to the vaudeville of the Chicago, Liza with a Z and "I Want to Be a Dancin' Man" numbers. And who can resist "Big Spender" and "Rich Man's Frug"? "Repetitive", one reviewer here claims. Yeah, and Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine were accused of being "repetitive" in their vocabulary.
"Fosse" also includes interviews with Vereen and Reinking that give insight into how Bob Fosse and his choreography attained the relevance this show displays. Reinking states that Fosse took every member of the ensemble seriously, as a character and not just a background dancer. She describes a dancer who, after working on a number all day, muttered "again?" when asked by Fosse to rehearse further. That unfortunate dancer was soon looking for another job. This tells you something of Fosse's perfectionism. "That's what I would like anybody to feel [seeing this show]", Reinking states, "even just a breath of someone's dedication and passion".

Complain? Name me another film or television document to capture the American musical theatre in recent years. Along with 1990 documentary on Fosse, "Steam Heat", by Dance in America, this will be one of the greatest records of the genius of Bob Fosse. Except for the record of numbers Fosse choreographed for films and television, this is the only record of so many Broadway numbers fans and scholars will be able to rely on in future. And what a wonderful thing to have. I'm giving "Fosse" to all my friends who love the American musical theatre. It's a blast to watch all of these numbers again, and I know they will LOVE it.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the Fosse legacy, October 25, 2004
This review is from: Fosse (DVD)
As a former dancer, I marvel at the technique and ability of the ensemble in this show, and of Bob Fosse's choreography, which challenges their skill to the maximum, with his unique vision of movement and form, somewhat like a marriage between a young sleek cat and Marcel Marceau's mime, usually with a touch of decadence (sometimes a hefty slice of it) and always humor. Fosse (1927-1987), was a man who though very serious about his work, never failed to fill it with a carefree wit.

Headed by Ben Vereen and Ann Reinking (who co-directed and co-choreographed), it's the ensemble of dancers that steal the spotlight, like Ken Alan who does such graceful tap dancing, the stunning redhead Dylis Croman, who solos in "Sing, Sing, Sing", and Meg Gillentine, who does "Steam Heat".

The shows represented are:

Pajama Game (1954)

Damn Yankees (1955)

Sweet Charity (1966)

Bob Hope Special (1968)

Pippin (1972)

Liza with a Z (1972)

Chicago (1975)

Dancin' (1978)

Big Deal (1986)

In three acts, Act One and Two end with interview clips of Vereen, Reinking and Dana Moore, speaking of what it was like working with Fosse. I never had the opportunity to do so, but did audition for him once, and it went on for days...I was amazed by his thoroughness, patience, and fairness, and when it came down to two of us, his extreme kindness in bidding me goodbye.

Despite the enormous talent involved and Fosse's genius, this show just misses the mark. The lighting for instance sometimes is too dark to see the legs and feet when they are wearing dark clothes (which is a lot of the time), and perhaps Vereen and Reinking aren't quite the star wattage power needed to hold the production together, and on occasion, there is some distinctly non-Fosse-like lack of precision; nevertheless, this show, which was a PBS "Great Performances" entry, will be appreciated by dance aficionados and Fosse fans.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fosse for adults, July 31, 2004
This review is from: Fosse (DVD)
If you've read all 37 reviews so far, I guess you're a Fosse fan. You will know who's in the DVD and what numbers they do, but I think it will be the most helpful here to say what not to expect. Except for nostalgic short appearances by Reinking, (way past her brilliant prime) and embarrassing interferences by Vereen, there are no original cast performers. Don't yearn for something you may have seen on Broadway years ago or even this show when it was fresher and live on stage.

What you will see is Fosse's work done better than even he could do it. These are professionals at their finest, tireless, versatile, energetic and able to show to best advantage all the subtleties and drive of Fosse's limitless invention. The lighting is perfect and the camera work magical. I don't know they did it with a live show with no chance for retakes. I've danced in Musicals in Hollywood in the 50's and later directed television and in my opinion this is the best you'll ever see of Fosse's work.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just short of the original cast, July 14, 2005
This review is from: Fosse (DVD)
I don't think some reviewers understood that this is a taped performance several months before the show closed. Ben Vereen was inserted, undoubtedly, to sell tickets, as was Bebe Neuwirth, who was added even later, for the same purpose. The original cast, some of whom can be seen in this DVD (Dana Moore, Rachelle Rak, Eugene Fleming, Marc Calamia, among others) had the benefit of a pre-casting workshop, and, of course, the ensemble work was a bit sharper. You're never seeing the "best" version of a show two and a half-years later. There will always be a slight dropoff in talent, and unless the original director frequently comes back to keep performers to their paces, the overall effect will fray a bit with time. Still, I can't disagree more with some negative reviewers. A two-left feet dancer myself,I was astonished by the ensemble work herein. With as many as 18 bodies filling the stage at times, moving in all directions and at breakneck speed, I don't know how these great performers can be so well-synchronized, or for that matter how nobody ever turns the wrong way. Actors have cue cards and prompters, but dancers are up there on a stage all alone. They are the hardest working people in show business and the heart and soul of musicals. Some reviewers refer to a paucity of vocal talent in the DVD, and here I reluctantly agree. I saw "Fosse" shortly after it opened, and the best female singers, Valerie Pettitford (a belter who would do Merman proud) and Jane Lanier, weren't adequately replaced. Also missed is Kim Morgan Greene, a good singer and sensational dancer. (If this is the same woman who appears in lots of cheesy films and TV shows, and it sure looks like her, she was ill-advised not to pursue a Broadway career. With her talent and looks she would have become a star.) Fosse directed/choreographed so many hit Broadway shows it must have been hard for the show's creators (Reinking, Richard Maltby and Chet Walker) to decide what made the cut, but I'm surprised nothing from several of his biggest successes, like "How to Succeed.." and "Little Me" survived the workshop process. Also, I wonder why "Dancin' Dan(Me and My Shadow)" is the only number not included on the DVD. As performed by Eugene Fleming, Dana Moore and Kim Morgan Greene, it received one of the loudest ovations of the evening. Time constraints can't be an issue since the piece only lasted about three minutes. These cavils aside, I recommend this DVD in the strongest possible terms. You'll see a very strong representation of the great Fosse's work, and a living tribute to Broadway's "gypsies," the gifted but often overlooked dancers whohere get a chance to step out front and shine, and do they! I wish producers would take a new look at a veteran performer like Dana Moore, who can sing, dance, act, and has looks and personality, and see a lead actress, not an ensemble member. Younger performers like Dylis Cromer (understudy to the lead in "Sweet Charity" as I write this) and Meg Gillentine, I believe, will get to see their names "above the title" on Broadway marquees for sure. Those who counsel buying the DVD of "All That Jazz" and/or "Sweet Charity" to better appreciate Fosse's work couldn't be more wrong. This DVD provides an overview of most of his exceptionally innovative and creative career and contains fully 80 minutes of mostly thrilling performances. As I wrote earlier, I'm a klutz and have always said "I Won't Dance, Don't Make Me," but I never appreciated the art of theatrical dancing until I saw this show and then bought the DVD, which I watch often. You will too. P.S. My computer has lately failed to indent for new paragraphs. To anyone who persisted through this mass of black type, I apologize.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There's No There There..., February 17, 2003
This review is from: Fosse [VHS] (VHS Tape)
For Fosse fans and Dance fans, this is a real dissapointment. Obviously fans will get it because it's all we can get. In truth it is NOT, repeat NOT a recording of the 1999 Broadway dance-muscial, Fosse. It is sections from a much later series of performances designed to accomodate a wonderful, if aging Ben Vereen. Neither Reinking, who barely dances in this (except for her only recorded version of Big Spender and the wonderful Cool Hand Luke) or Vereen were even IN the original. If you liked the original, what made if work were the sheer number of Fosse pieces and Reinking's crisp, As Fosse As Fosse Can Get choreography. By this date, the dancers are well aware of their status as fill ins in a the third or fourth rung cast and back up to two stars who have been brought in to boost theatre sales. Few of the young stars of the original cast are here. Their replacements try hard and are talented for sure, but it's just not here. This is something they threw together entirely to honor Vereen, who, lets face it, needs some honoring and clearly Reinking stood in the back to honor her friend. He is wonderful. And his performance is worth seeing - but this should be retitled "Ben Vereen's Fosse." Hopefully someday the tapes of the original production with the cast that is on the soundtrack will surface. In the meanwhile, true diehards have to go back to the footage from the films, Pajama Game, (steam heat) Sweet Charity, (Big Spender, Rich Mans Frug) Kiss Me Kate, The Little Prince, All That Jazz and listen to the soundtrack, to get the idea.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...But where is Ms. Reinking?, March 8, 2002
By 
Ido Rozenberg (Rishon Le Zion, Israel) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fosse (DVD)
Bob Fosse choreographed so many beautiful and clever dances. With a group of talented dancers, who are equally talented as singers and actors, the magic of Fosse comes to life. Ben Vereen is great. He gives a wonderful performance- he acts, sings and dances number after number. In "Bye Bye Blackbird" he sings and dances with joy and passion, and you can feel that Fosse is in his soul. In "Mr. Bojangles" he is very moving.
But my million dollar question is: where is Ms. Reinking? She has a great entrance in "Fosse's World" and "Big Spender" - and that's it! I really wanted to see her in "Nowadays" and in the "Hot Honey Rag" which she performed in "Chicago" in 1997 on Broadway. I wanted to see her do "There'll Be Some Changes Made" from "All That Jazz" as well. Don't get me wrong - the other performers who did those numbers were great, especially: Dylis Croman, Meg Gillentine, Rachelle Rak, and Dana Moore. The guys are great too, especially: Ken Alan and Edwaard Liang. They dance beautifully, with great acting ability that makes thier performance so amazing.
In conclusion, I would say that everybody that loves Fosse's works and musicals should buy this DVD, even though the amazing Reinking didn't perform so much.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Not Great, August 27, 2004
This review is from: Fosse (DVD)
Before I go any further, I should state that I am a lifelong lover of Broadway shows and have always admired the work of Bob Fosse. So I was quite looking forward to this "celebration" of his choreography. But, having seen it, why am I left feeling distinctly underwhelmed?

Perhaps this was a show that needed to be seen on the stage. Bob Fosse was, after all, primarily a Broadway legend, although he also made several knockout films. Or maybe not enough was done to make the transition from stage to DVD. Certainly, at times, the theatre lighting seems to obscure rather than reveal the choreography. And the camera work does not always serve the performance as well as it might. But some of the problems could also be the basic concept. The numbers are presented in roughly chronological order which is interesting but makes for uncertain pacing. Some of the big numbers from, say, Cabaret or Chicago are simply not there. Most of the numbers are chorus or ensemble pieces, rather than star-based showstoppers. While Fosse's choreography is wonderfully unique, it is not necessary to be so robotic about it. In the post-show interviews, much is made of Fosse's perfectionism and insistence on doing things over and over again. But this company does not seem to have been subjected to the same rigors. As an example - part of the "From This Moment On" number from the film Kiss Me Kate that was originally danced by Carol Haney and Fosse himself. The dancers in this show perform the steps and movements exactly. But the wit and charm of the piece - and the star quality - are sadly lacking.

Maybe part of the problem is taking the routines out of their context without full costumes and scenery. Of course, the bare basics of this production wishes to emphasize the choreography. But Fosse was more than a choreographer - he was a director and these numbers were parts of shows, not just isolated flashes. Only one of Fosse's later shows - Dancin' - was just a succession of dance numbers, and it worked more successfully than this show. Come to that, Fosse's great film All That Jazz tells us much more about Fosse and dancing than this show.

No doubt many people will love this show and revel in its celebration of one of Broadway's best. But, for me, I kept wishing that it had been better. Maybe only Bob Fosse himself could have given the show that something special.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Did Not Live Up To It's Hype., January 16, 2003
This review is from: Fosse (DVD)
Ben Vareen is simply embarrassing and to such an extent that his final spot should be quickly 'Fast Forward'.
Much of what is happening on stage is lost because the camera repeatedly jumps from full frontal to the left, then to the right, then back to full stage. During this off-putting camera work it also jumps from close-up to distant. Big Spender was thus ruined.
The magic of the original Broadway show and cast is completely lost. Fosse would have been furious and both he and Fred Astaire would be turning over in their graves.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wanna be a dancin man..., February 2, 2002
This review is from: Fosse [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I am completely appalled and angered by the previous review. Obviously this person understands little about the theater and should not be misleading those who do and have not seen this great film yet. Ben Vereen and Ann Reinking are THE original Fosse stars--they could come on for two seconds and wave for all I could care. They will always have that star aura and power about them, and they deserve credit for still getting up and dancing after so many years. I will admit Ann did only come on for a few performances, but she was not there to be the star of the show. I think her being in those few numbers was so she could dance them one last time--its time for her to pass on her knowledge to the next generation.
The costuming is authentic to the original shows/ movies and they capture the way Fosse wanted his girls : legs that went on for days. Granted Fosse's method's probably wouldn't have worked nowadays, but this show isn't about now: it is a showcase about the era when all of this was possible,and the man who took dance to a new level. Whoever wrote the previous review needs to take Bob's advice : "Life is just a bowl of cherries". Sometimes you need to enjoy "art for art's sake" and stop evaluating dance like you would with anything else.
All the numbers seem to brought to life again for the first time, including ones that can not be seen in his movie musicals. I once heard that Fosse claimed to have only used 10 steps in all his choreography and its interesting in the string of dances to see the similarities. Personally my favorites are "Steam Heat" from the Pajama Game and "The Rich Man's Frug" from Sweet Charity. The frug is especially well done and it is an exact replica of the movie, except of course Ben Vereen doing his little split and "oh yeah" like in the movie. I think it would have been a little bit much to ask him to try to do it again.
I highly recommend buying this performance, but please: before you knock it get some background of Fosse's work if you didnt like this performance. Sweet Charity, Pippin, and Cabaret are good movies to start with, and they capture the true heart of the world of Fosse. Hey but what do I know? I'm only a sixteen year old....
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Fosse
Fosse by Matthew Diamond (DVD - 2002)
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