Nicole Fosse on her parents Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, and Fosse Verdon TV series

Nicole Fosse learned things about her parents, the choreographer and director Bob Fosse and the dancer Gwen Verdon, by watching the making of the TV series “Fosse Verdon,” which begins on FX Tuesday, April 9th.

“I am much more aware of how distraught my father could be internally,” she says. “I was raised by him, so I knew about the obsession with the work, the crazy hours. But I really see how – what’s the right word — enveloped he was by show business to the point where he did not really develop another life. Everything was show business.”
As for her mother – “it’s wonderful to see her sense of fun and joy — how she found humor and laughter in all sorts of situations.”

Of course, the only daughter of Fosse and Verdon already knew much that’s covered in the eight episodes of the limited series. In fact, she is responsible for some of it. Fosse, 56, served as co-executive producer and creative consultant for the show. She is also the director of the Verdon Fosse Legacy ,which promotes and protects the legacy of the couple who met doing “Damn Yankees” on Broadway and together or individually brought the world “Sweet Charity,” “Pippin” and “Chicago,” (as well as the films “Cabaret” and “All That Jazz.”)

She believes that legacy is still felt strongly on Broadway, as she told me in a telephone conference call today:

“My parents really changed the framework for Broadway. Pieces like Hamilton or In the Heights or Rent can happen because of my father’s work. Musicals are different because of the way he constructed his musical. I also believe that my mother had an impact on the nature of what can be considered sexy – that strong can be sexy, innocence can be sexy.”

It’s no coincidence that much of the creative team behind Hamilton and In The Heights are involved in the TV series – Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of five executive producers; another, Thomas Kail, who directs five of the eight episodes. Alex Lacamoire is the musical director.  Andy Blankenbuehler is a co-producer and the choreographer for the first episodes. He and Nicole Fosse have known each other for 20 years, when he was dancing in the 1999 tribute show “Fosse,” and she was assisting her mother, who served as artistic adviser. (Verdon died the following year. Fosse had died in 1987.)

Some of the incidents depicted, Fosse says, “are historical fiction in a sense.” But she believes the show is an accurate reflection of the relationship:

“Even when their marriage was no longer a good marriage — it was no longer a romantic marriage – they still had a lifelong relationship with each other. They had a lot of trust with each other and a lot of loyality. If you exclude the bedroom part, they were loyal to each other their entire lives really. They spoke every day.”

Fosse is especially gratified that the series “brings a lot of light onto my mother, which is long overdue. She was in the shadow of my father for a long time because she was not the director she was not the choreographer; even though she contributed behind-the-scenes an incredible amount.”

An actress, dancer and producer in her own right, Nicole Fosse is candid about the experience of having grown up as the only child of such driven, talented, glamorous show business parents.

“I lived in a pretty grown up world, but my parents doted on me. It was a privilege to be around that level of intellectual curiosity and it fires up your brain as a little kid to want to explore literature and art and life and the human condition.

“The bad part is when you get out of the situation, you grow up, and all of those people grow old and die, and you are stuck with a pile of laundry and a grocery list, and you’re like: Where’s the party?”

 

See: My take on Fosse Verdon, with 18 photographs and three videos.

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Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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