By Lucy Komisar
Bob Fosse is the only theater choreographer whose name trips off the tongues of most theater-goers. OK, Twyla Tharp, but she has written mostly for dance venues, not theater. This is a reimagining of a show that opened on Broadway in 1978. It starts with the promise of no plot, no messages. Wish it were so. Forty-five years later, we are smothered in woke.
The dancing is terrific. I love the jazzy jagged elbows-out, gyrating, leaping movement. The high kicks and acrobatics.
And smart costumes (Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung), the black and red, the white in front, black in back which catches your eye when the dancers turn. Straw hats go with calypso sounds. A favorite is the company in blue suits and boaters in the syncopated Dancin’ Man. And Jacob Guzman in “Mr. Bojangles,” the recollections of an old dancer. Those favorites weather well.
But the work is diminished by “re-imagined” message of raunchy in-your-face sex of all varieties. Sorry, I am not a fan. I find the depictions crude. Though not mentioned is that this may harken back to Fosse’s teenage years performing at a bordello, which would give it a sense of place.
Director Wayne Cilento’s big city is heavy with hookers and sado-masochists. I know Fosse did “Sweet Charity,” about the former. Here cops raid a peepshow, there are black leather chest bands, and “Cruise me, use me/ Whip me, unzip me/ Hug me, slug me.” Did the teen Fosse hear that in the bordello? Or else why hype it?
I preferred the stomping and swaying to Benny Goodman swing jazz. Men in white suits, women in glitter, kicks and twists, with a drummer on a high level of the iron scaffolding backdrop.
If you want political, I go for liberation rather than abuse. I could empathize with Yani Marin who doesn’t like the female star spot with Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again.” Lyrics: “Just when I’ve begun to get myself together/ You waltz right in the door/ Just like you’ve done before/ And wrap my heart around your little finger –
Yani says, “Oh, hell no. Dolly, Queen, you know I love you, but do we need to sing a song about being a doormat?” And “Who needs their senses filled with toxic masculinity?!”
“Yankee Doodle Dandy” with red fireworks segues into “If Johnny comes marching home.”
Still, given the choice, I’d let Fosse be Fosse, with his spikey jagged movements. Even some traditional modern dance. No plot, no grungy messages.
“Bob Fosse’s Dancin’.” Choreographed by Bob Fosse, directed by Wayne Cilento. Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45th St., NYC. Runtime 2:25. Online & in-person rush $40 11am-30 min before curtain, max two per person. Opened March 19, 2023. Open run. Review on NY Theatre Wire.