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Big Deal: Bob Fosse and Dance in the American Musical (Broadway Legacies)

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Bob Fosse (1927-1987) is recognized as one of the most significant figures in post-World War II American musical theater. With his first Broadway musical, The Pajama Game in 1954, the "Fosse style" was already fully developed, with its trademark hunched shoulders, turned-in stance, and stuttering, staccato jazz movements. Fosse moved decisively into the role of director wi Bob Fosse (1927-1987) is recognized as one of the most significant figures in post-World War II American musical theater. With his first Broadway musical, The Pajama Game in 1954, the "Fosse style" was already fully developed, with its trademark hunched shoulders, turned-in stance, and stuttering, staccato jazz movements. Fosse moved decisively into the role of director with Redhead in 1959 and was a key figure in the rise of the director-choreographer in the Broadway musical. He also became the only star director of musicals of his era--a group that included Jerome Robbins, Gower Champion, Michael Kidd, and Harold Prince--to equal his Broadway success in films. Following his unprecedented triple crown of show business awards in 1973 (an Oscar for Cabaret, Emmy for Liza with a Z, and Tony for Pippin), Fosse assumed complete control of virtually every element of his projects. But when at last he had achieved complete autonomy, his final efforts, the film Star 80 and the musical Big Deal, written and directed by Fosse, were rejected by audiences and critics. A fascinating look at the evolution of Fosse as choreographer and director, Big Deal: Bob Fosse and Dance in the American Musical considers Fosse's career in the context of changes in the Broadway musical theater over four decades. It traces his early dance years and the importance of mentors George Abbott and Jerome Robbins on his work. It examines how each of the important women in his adult life--all dancers--impacted his career and influenced his dance aesthetic. Finally, the book investigates how his evolution as both artist and individual mirrored the social and political climate of his era and allowed him to comfortably ride a wave of cultural changes.


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Bob Fosse (1927-1987) is recognized as one of the most significant figures in post-World War II American musical theater. With his first Broadway musical, The Pajama Game in 1954, the "Fosse style" was already fully developed, with its trademark hunched shoulders, turned-in stance, and stuttering, staccato jazz movements. Fosse moved decisively into the role of director wi Bob Fosse (1927-1987) is recognized as one of the most significant figures in post-World War II American musical theater. With his first Broadway musical, The Pajama Game in 1954, the "Fosse style" was already fully developed, with its trademark hunched shoulders, turned-in stance, and stuttering, staccato jazz movements. Fosse moved decisively into the role of director with Redhead in 1959 and was a key figure in the rise of the director-choreographer in the Broadway musical. He also became the only star director of musicals of his era--a group that included Jerome Robbins, Gower Champion, Michael Kidd, and Harold Prince--to equal his Broadway success in films. Following his unprecedented triple crown of show business awards in 1973 (an Oscar for Cabaret, Emmy for Liza with a Z, and Tony for Pippin), Fosse assumed complete control of virtually every element of his projects. But when at last he had achieved complete autonomy, his final efforts, the film Star 80 and the musical Big Deal, written and directed by Fosse, were rejected by audiences and critics. A fascinating look at the evolution of Fosse as choreographer and director, Big Deal: Bob Fosse and Dance in the American Musical considers Fosse's career in the context of changes in the Broadway musical theater over four decades. It traces his early dance years and the importance of mentors George Abbott and Jerome Robbins on his work. It examines how each of the important women in his adult life--all dancers--impacted his career and influenced his dance aesthetic. Finally, the book investigates how his evolution as both artist and individual mirrored the social and political climate of his era and allowed him to comfortably ride a wave of cultural changes.

30 review for Big Deal: Bob Fosse and Dance in the American Musical (Broadway Legacies)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    This book is strictly for those of us nerds who love to read about the creative process especially when exemplified by a true original. Winkler does a fine job of analyzing some of Fosse's iconic choreographic creations, but Sam Wasson's biography entitled Fosse goes deeper into his life and what drove him. This book is strictly for those of us nerds who love to read about the creative process especially when exemplified by a true original. Winkler does a fine job of analyzing some of Fosse's iconic choreographic creations, but Sam Wasson's biography entitled Fosse goes deeper into his life and what drove him.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    BIG DEAL examines Bob Fosse's four-decade career as one of the brightest lights in Broadway musical theater as a choreographer and director. Kevin Winkler, a former dancer and New York Public Library archivist, conducted interviews with dozens of dancers who worked with Fosse (1927-1987) on stage and screen. He also uses the personal papers of Fosse and wife Gwen Verdon to construct an amazingly exhaustive, intimate and riveting career biography of his subject. As a teen, Fosse performed in vaude BIG DEAL examines Bob Fosse's four-decade career as one of the brightest lights in Broadway musical theater as a choreographer and director. Kevin Winkler, a former dancer and New York Public Library archivist, conducted interviews with dozens of dancers who worked with Fosse (1927-1987) on stage and screen. He also uses the personal papers of Fosse and wife Gwen Verdon to construct an amazingly exhaustive, intimate and riveting career biography of his subject. As a teen, Fosse performed in vaudeville, nightclubs and burlesque houses. A film contract with MGM led to appearing in and choreographing musicals on Broadway. Winkler looks at all of Fosse's work on stage (including Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, Chicago), film (Cabaret, All That Jazz) and TV specials. He assesses each musical number from each production and analyzes how Fosse's aesthetic changed over the decades. BIG DEAL focuses on the director's work life--and he was a true workaholic. In 1973, he won the show business triple crown: an Oscar for Cabaret, a Tony for Pippin and an Emmy for Liza with a Z. "The only salvation for me is work--just to keep rehearsing," Fosse said. "Only then do I experience absolute happiness." There's still plenty of juicy backstage gossip (Fosse's bitter battles with Pippin's composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz; his brief tenure directing Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl after producers fired Jerome Robbins). BIG DEAL is an authoritative, passionately written and essential reference guide to all of Bob Fosse's musical numbers. Musical theater fans will tip their hats (Fosse-style) to this affectionate and energetic tribute. BIG DEAL scrutinizes all of Bob Fosse's musical numbers in this passionate, intimate overview of his four-decade career on Broadway and in films.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gina Dalfonzo

    Not as strong as Sam Wasson's Fosse biography, mainly because Winkler glosses over Fosse's destructive behavior and its effect on those around him -- including and especially his sexual harassment. (The occasional "Oh, btw, Fosse was really handsy and some of the female dancers didn't like it" doesn't even begin to cover what went on.) On the plus side, though, Winkler is superb at writing about dance. Not as strong as Sam Wasson's Fosse biography, mainly because Winkler glosses over Fosse's destructive behavior and its effect on those around him -- including and especially his sexual harassment. (The occasional "Oh, btw, Fosse was really handsy and some of the female dancers didn't like it" doesn't even begin to cover what went on.) On the plus side, though, Winkler is superb at writing about dance.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    I've always admired the dancing and choreography of the late Bob Fosse. He had a distinctive style, and created some of the most memorable movie musicals and Broadway shows. Cabaret, the movie version with Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey is unforgettable. And the shows... Dancin' and Chicago, just to name two. The book follows Fosse's entire career, which is very interesting from a historical perspective. The author (a former dancer) gets very deeply into Fosse's techniques and steps, which was too t I've always admired the dancing and choreography of the late Bob Fosse. He had a distinctive style, and created some of the most memorable movie musicals and Broadway shows. Cabaret, the movie version with Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey is unforgettable. And the shows... Dancin' and Chicago, just to name two. The book follows Fosse's entire career, which is very interesting from a historical perspective. The author (a former dancer) gets very deeply into Fosse's techniques and steps, which was too technical for me, so I moved through those passages quickly. I was more interested in his motivations and relationships, the most significant of which was with the great Gwen Verdon, his third wife and most important muse. His choreography for her shows, Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity and Redhead was by the author's account, some of his greatest work. I knew Fosse was a driven man, and one of many compulsions. All this was very clear in his autobiographical film, All That Jazz. Despite being a serious womanizer and always unfaithful, the women of his most significant relationships, with Verdon, Ann Reinking, and his first two wives were devoted to him. Yet he's very hard to like, however, by today's standards. The book was obviously exhaustively researched and very interesting, but also somewhat tedious. It is really more for a serious student of dance in American musicals, but I stayed with it just because I have enjoyed so much of Fosse's work. His early death, at 60, was a great loss to theater and film.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. Palmer

    Took me a while to finish this, and it started kind of slow, but it was a very informative look at Bob Fosse's major works and their impact, up to and including today's modern entertainment world. Some of it was highly technical and not as easy for me to understand, but I am also far more familiar with Fosse than I used to be, and the more I read, the better I could process the information. Sam Wasson's Fosse is still my favorite, and it goes way more in depth in terms of Fosse as a person. This Took me a while to finish this, and it started kind of slow, but it was a very informative look at Bob Fosse's major works and their impact, up to and including today's modern entertainment world. Some of it was highly technical and not as easy for me to understand, but I am also far more familiar with Fosse than I used to be, and the more I read, the better I could process the information. Sam Wasson's Fosse is still my favorite, and it goes way more in depth in terms of Fosse as a person. This was a good complement to that work in that it thoroughly explained Fosse's creative process and his signature dance choreography.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tom Lisanti

    Kevin Winkler has done a superlative job with this meticulously researched, well-written look on Bob Fosse concentrating more on his work as choreographer and director than his personal life. Very informative. He approaches the subject as if none of his his readers know anything about dance (which is probably most of us) and explains clearly Fosse's techniques and how he improved on them. Highly recommend. Kevin Winkler has done a superlative job with this meticulously researched, well-written look on Bob Fosse concentrating more on his work as choreographer and director than his personal life. Very informative. He approaches the subject as if none of his his readers know anything about dance (which is probably most of us) and explains clearly Fosse's techniques and how he improved on them. Highly recommend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Pam Mooney

    An amazing story of a true legend. While I am not trained in dance I love music and this is a wonderful story across all disciplines. Entertaining as well as catching the true essence of a life well lived bringing in all facets of Bob Fosse's world. I felt like I was dropped into a world of larger than life people with huge personalities and talent. The stories were unforgettable and the ability of the author to capture those stories was admirable. A good read. An amazing story of a true legend. While I am not trained in dance I love music and this is a wonderful story across all disciplines. Entertaining as well as catching the true essence of a life well lived bringing in all facets of Bob Fosse's world. I felt like I was dropped into a world of larger than life people with huge personalities and talent. The stories were unforgettable and the ability of the author to capture those stories was admirable. A good read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian McCann

    Well-researched and written in great detail through a dancer’s lens, BIG DEAL complements many of the other Fosse biographies out there with tremendous detail in specifics of Fosse’s dance numbers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    792.82092 F752w 2018

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia J.

    Very well written, well researched, and annotated. Really connected Fosse’s career to the history of musical theatre. Less about his human flaws than about his work. Gave us a real visual of his era.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  12. 4 out of 5

    Scott Miller

  13. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Horst

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Golden

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jason Philip Ward

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jen

  21. 5 out of 5

    Richard Carey

  22. 4 out of 5

    william grady

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mary B

  24. 5 out of 5

    Peter Guerrero

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Fitzgerald

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ian

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Caggiano

  28. 5 out of 5

    J. Walker

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dori

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ricky

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