In “Fosse Verdon,” an eight-part series that begins on April 9th on FX, current Broadway royalty and a cast of Broadway regulars (see below) tell the story of a king and queen of Broadway who for three decades reigned (sort of) on stage, on film and in life, Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon.
Bob Fosse, dancer, director and choreographer (Cabaret, Chicago, Pippin, All That Jazz) , creator of a still-influential, signature style, the only person ever to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony in the same year; the winner of more Tony Awards for choreography than any other choreographer in Broadway history — eight (plus one for directing.)
Gwen Verdon, six time Tony nominee, four time winner, once considered the greatest musical comedy star in the world; a friend called her the Empress.
Fosse and Verdon first teamed up in 1955 for Damn Yankees, both winning their second Tonys, she for Lola (“Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.”) They married in 1960, and stay married until his death in 1987. But they separated in 1971, and he had a string of girlfriends and dalliances, as the series makes clear..
“Fosse Verdon” is said to be based on the 2013 Sam Wasson biography, “Fosse.” But, while the book starts with Fosse’s funeral, it then goes back to his childhood and proceeds chronologically. The series (based on watching the first few episodes) time travels back and forth within each episode, offering some odd title cards (like “New York, 261 days since Gwen Verdon’s first Tony Award) to try to orient the viewers or make some pointed comment. It is also, in contrast to the book, more of a dual biography, and makes the claim that Verdon deserves more credit than she’s gotten for Fosse’s career and his art. There’s a feminist spin ere that helps answer the question: How is “Fosse Vernon” different from Fosse’s own obviously autobiographical 1979 movie, “All That Jazz”?
“He takes what’s special in a girl and he makes it his own,” Susan Misner as Joan McCracken, Fosse’s dying second wife, wisecracks to Verdon, who will eventually become Fosse’s third. “Well,” Verdon replies, “that’s what they all do. Isn’t it?”
The Broadway connection: Steven Levenson (the book writer for Dear Evan Hansen) has written the first two episodes. Thomas Kail, the director of Hamilton, has directed five of the eight episodes. Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of the executive producers. Another one is Nicole Fosse, the daughter of Fosse and Verdon.
There are one or two musical numbers in each episode, from one of Fosse’s celebrated (or sometimes not so celebrated) musicals, but these are often truncated and presented in the context of a rehearsal or a film shoot — almost always part of a realistic scene, like Rise, in other words, rather than inserted Broadway musical fashion like Glee. It would be hard to call “Fosse Verdon” a TV musical.
The cast includes Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon, Sam Rockwell as Bob Fosse, Kelli Barrett as Liza Minnelli, Bianca Marroquin as Chita Rivera, Evan Handler as Hal Prince,
Norbert Leo Butz as the screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, Laura Osnes as Shirley MacLaine, and Brandon Uranowitz as Dustin Hoffman….well, take a look.