From: The Southampton Press 8/26/04
High-Flying 'Fosse' A Gateway Winner
By Lee Davis
If there were an award for best, most exciting, most dazzling and tightly performed dancing of this or any other season of shows in this part of the world, the Gateway Playhouse would win this year, hands down and grand jetes up.
True, Marsha Milgrom Dodge's dances for the present Bay Street mounting of "Once On This Island" are exhilarating and inventive. But for uniform elevated talent wedded to sheer showbiz pizzazz, stunning spectacle and energy enough to power a flotilla of ocean liners, Gateway takes the prize. First, in July, there was the startlingly moody production of "Cats" in Patchogue, seemingly a feat hard to beat. But now, in August, "Cats" has been bettered by the Gateway production of "Fosse" at the same Patchogue Theatre.
This nuclear powered, intoxicating and invigorating evening of Bob Fosse choreography, captured and apparently still supervised with an iron hand by Ann Reinking, (Debra McWaters, the director/choreographer of the Patchogue production, has been Ann Reinking's associate for 14 years and was the assistant choreographer for the current Broadway revival of "Chicago") is an evening full of memory-makers. Assisted by no less than three dance captains, and the slightly less than 50 percent presence of veterans of either the Broadway or international production of "Fosse," this mounting has all the snap, polish and-what is most rewarding-electricity of a Broadway show.
There are nonstop Fosse trademarks from the opening instant through the extended curtain calls: plenty of struts, loads of black derbies and black leotards, splayed feet and hands behaving as if they were attached with charged rubber bands to the dancers' bodies, anti-ballet poses interspersed with intensely balletic ones, thrusting pelvises, wild imagination and humor and darkness and the most basic fulfillment of all: Fosse bodies-muscular and masculine men; curvaceous, busty, wildly sexy, long-haired and sometimes ravishingly attractive women. And there's even one short-haired, red-topped dancer who bears an eerie resemblance to Gwen Verdon.
Intriguingly, the trademark Fosse moves work at their exuberant best in the context of the shows in which they appeared. And so, loosened from their context, the sometimes tedious transitions between numbers tremble dangerously on the edge of caricature.
But those are fleeting, momentarily dimming moments in an evening that's constantly gripping and forever exhilarating, marred only by one apparently systemic technical problem at the Gateway. For three quarters of this season, up to "Gypsy," the sound of the Gateway shows has been refreshingly in balance. But apparently, a sound technician who's been deafened, maybe by doing sound for too many rock shows, has returned. And if the sound for "Gypsy" was moderately annoying, that sound man's meddling with the controls in "Fosse" has become downright damaging. Singer Darren Lorenzo is a warmly winning performer, but he was so crashingly overmiked on opening night that audience members around me (and I myself) were forced to wince in pain. That's anti-entertainment.
That said, and minus this distraction, "Fosse" soars, from the eruptive, stage-filling calypso opening number through a whimsically physical "Bye Bye Blackbird" to a driving, battling duet by Ken Alan and Zane Booker of a percussive number from "Dancin'" the all dance show that Fosse staged in his lifetime. There's a dance originally created for Gwen Verdon, Lee Roy Reams and Buddy Vest for a 1968 Bob Hope television special, performed to a fare-thee-well by Ashley Fitzgerald, Zane Booker and Shane Stitely, and another refugee from "Dancin'" the "Crunchy Granola Suite" with music by Neil Diamond that brings the entire cast into turbulent, levitating presence.
Along with the pure dance creations, "Fosse" is spicily peppered with the master's creations for Broadway and film musicals. "Big Spender" from "Sweet Charity" is a chestnut that appears freshly minted, with all of the variety and imagination that he poured into this number intact. "Steam Heat," the whimsical whirlwind from "Pajama Game" that rocketed Fosse to the astonished attention of Broadway in 1954, is tossed off with not quite the touch that Carol Haney gave it, but close enough, by Ken Alan, James Kinney and Rosanne Colosi.
"Rich Man's Frug" from "Sweet Charity" gets its best re-creation-or possibly creation-in this critic's memory, led by a statuesque blonde (Kelly King, I think) and "Mein Herr" the addition to the film version of "Cabaret," has all the earthiness of a Hamburg bordello. If "Razzle Dazzle," from "Chicago," is thrown off a little too offhandedly by James Kinney, Katie Hyle and Christina West, the dance designed to shock the backers, "Take Off With Us" from the autobiographical film musical "All That Jazz" is socked out with all the acrobatic and erotic vigor it contained in the film. This being Patchogue, it's possible that the women dancers don't shed quite as much clothing as those in the film, but there's still enough exposure of writhing young flesh on stage to satisfy the most demanding connoisseur of this popular theatrical art.
And the fitting climax of an intoxicating evening is the showstopper from "Dancin'": an extended, full steam and complex "Sing Sing Sing." It was enough to get the opening night audience cheering and on its feet in a-for once-thoroughly justified standing ovation. My guess is that it will be repeated for the remainder of the run, which continues through September 4. The Gateway box office number is 286-1133.
Copyright, The Southampton Press