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Bob Fosse’s Cabaret Experience – A New Generation

Bob Fosse is often celebrated as one of Broadway‘s greatest, if not THE greatest talent to ever hit the industry. This is no small statement, considering the theater also made Mel Brooks, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber and other “greats.” And granted, Fosse only choreographed his musicals. He gave John Kander and Fred Ebb songwriting and musical duties.

However, Fosse’s vision was tight, and his coworkers always made sure to bring his magic to life in the precise way he wanted. He was a gifted choreographer and dancer and made sure that the dancing and story boarding of each scene was always pitch perfect–even surpassing the music, if that’s at all possible.

Two of Fosse’s greatest hits were Cabaret and Chicago (which is technically a reimagining of All That Jazz). Even going to the productions today is a Fosse-esque experience, as producers and directors always follow the story model Fosse left behind, not only from the musicals but also from his films.

Consider Cabaret. Many people forget that Fosse did actually throw his swiftly conducting hands into theater, and did the unthinkable: he made the best movie of 1971, surpassing even Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Fosse was able to transform depressing “real life” into a musical stage using the backdrop of a small cabaret bar and show and the patriotism of 1930s Nazi Germany. And to this day, even with productions directed by the likes of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, you can still feel Fosse’s strong influence in every scene.

Chicago has also enjoyed a revival and has enjoyed renewed interest thanks to Rob Marshall’s Chicago film starring Richard Gere and Catharine Zeta Jones. Chicago‘s favorite hits include “Razzle Dazzle” and “Mister Cellophane” and a revamped “All That Jazz.”

While Fosse purists will see differences between modern retellings and the original, these changes are actually of aesthetic interest. For instance, in the latest Marshall interpreted play, rather than a fadeout that follows “Life is a Cabaret” by Liza, we are given an update as to the dark fate of the various singers and dancers of the cabaret. Many of which were Jewish and living in Berlin living during the pre-war period.

Fosse’s works, featuring bright sets and catchy tunes, are always about something socially relevant; racism, religion, court justice and perhaps even basic human morality. They’re not only a fun history lesson, bitingly satirical at every turn, but quite brilliant in the way they force you to think much bigger.


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