G is for Gwen Verdon. Broadway’s heartstopping hoofer in photos and videos.

Gwen Verdon, who was dancing in movies from the age of 11, became the brightest of Broadway stars in the 1950s, winning four Tony Awards in five years for her performances — especially her dancing — in “Can-Can,” “Damn Yankees,” “New Girl in Town,” “Redhead.” She later originated Tony-nominated roles in “Sweet Charity” and “Chicago” as well.
Her role as muse and collaborator with her second husband, Bob Fosse, which was explored in the recent TV series Fosse/Verdon, tends to overshadow her dazzling dancing, which is evident on YouTube dating at least back to the age of 16 in 1941; she’s the one in the black tutu

But the record of her celebrated turns on Broadway are spottier, preserved primarily in photographs and in the later film adaptations of those productions.

Check out the rest of the Broadway Alphabet Series

Can Can, 1953

Songs by Cole Porter, book by Abe Burrows. Dances and Musical Numbers Staged by Michael Kidd

This is the role that won Verdon her first of four Tonys and thrust her into stardom. It’s hard to grasp completely how breathtaking her performance from these two brief videos, one silent, the second two decades later during the Tony Awards, which shows Verdon recreating her dancing from Can-Can for about 30 seconds (from :11) before she presented an award to somebody else

Damn Yankees, 1955

Songs by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross; Book byDouglass Wallop and George Abbott; From the novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant” by Douglass Wallop/ Dances and Musical Numbers Staged by Bob Fosse

A Little Brains, A Little Talent

Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)

Who’s Got The Pain

With Bob Fosse

Two Lost Souls
With Tab Hunter

New Girl in Town, 1957

Book by George Abbott; Based on the play “Anna Christie” by Eugene O’Neill; Music by Bob Merrill. Choreographed by Bob Fosse.

All I could find is this demonstration on TV overseen in which she sings a snippet of Sunshine Girl (which was not one of her songs in the now) while Fosse narrates, dances (and upstages?) It ends with them dancing a duet from “How to Succeed” (though neither of them were involved in that show)

Redhead, 1959

Book by Herbert Fields, Dorothy Fields, Sidney Sheldon and David Shaw; Music by Albert Hague; Lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Choreographed by Bob Fosse

Erbie Fitch’s Twitch

Sweet Charity, 1956

Book by Neil Simon; Music by Cy Coleman; Lyrics by Dorothy Fields; Based on the screenplay “Nights of Cabiria” by Federico Fellini. Choreographed by Bob Fosse
If My Friends Could See Me Now

Performed some three decades later for a television special.
(She was not cast for the film version.)

I’m a Brass Band
On Ed Sullivan show

Chicago, 1975

Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse; Music by John Kander; Lyrics by Fred Ebb; Based on the play “Chicago” by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Choreography by Bob Fosse

A Fine, Fine Day

Performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1970. This was her seventh and final appearance on Sullivan’s show.

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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