Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

All That Jazz


DIRECTED by Bob Fosse
PRODUCED by Robert Alan Aurthur
WRITTEN by Robert Alan Aurther & Bob Fosse
SONGS by Peter Allen (“Everything Old is New Again”), Boudleaux Bryant & Felice Bryant (“Bye Bye Love”), Barry Mann (“On Broadway”), W Benton Overstreet (“There’ll Be Some Changes Made”), Harry Ruby (“Who’s Sorry Now?”), & Mike Stoller (“On Broadway”)
CINEMATOGRAPHY by Giuseppe Rotunno
PRODUCTION DESIGN by Philip Rosenberg

Anger: God damn it! It just ain’t friggin’ fair! He was only 60 years old, he should have had many, many more wonderful stage and movie musicals ahead of him. Jerome Robbins lived to be 80. George Balanchine was 79. Busby Berkeley was 81. Martha Graham made it to 97. Who’s in charge here, anyway? God, is that you? What’s the problem, don’t you like musical comedy? Then bite me!

Denial: No, man, it just can’t be Bob Fosse that was struck down on a city street in Washington, D.C. Not Bob. Sure, he smoked like a chimney, he was a driven workaholic, he had a bad heart, but he had an operation, man, he was supposed to be okay. You know what I think, I think it’s like Elvis, he’s still out there, planning new dance moves or even variations on old ones, he was my favorite choreographer, I could never get enough of him, and he’s ready to pop up, surprise!, and wow us again with another masterpiece. Sure, that’s what it is. Sure.

Bargaining: Okay, look. I’ll give you … I’ll give you … Singin’ in the Rain. Okay? Wipe it from my memory, it’s like I never saw it, and I’ll never watch it again, okay? I mean, that’s one of the finest musicals ever made, right? Just let Bob come back and make one more musical, that’s all I ask. Whaddaya mean, dead is dead? Singin’ in the Rain, fer chrissake. Okay, okay, wait a minute … I’ll throw in 42nd Street. You got Busby Berkeley, and you got Gene Kelly, what more can you ask? Okay, wait, wait

Depression: Oh, crap. He’s dead.

Acceptance: Well, at least he made All That Jazz. Has anybody ever written his own epitaph more elegantly? For Bob Fosse, life was a cabaret. Show business was his metaphor as well as his life. The movie is brutally honest. He doesn’t try to pretend his life was wasted, he doesn’t pretend he wasn’t good; Joe Gideon was so good, and so obsessed, that his life was killing him. But he mercilessly exposes his own flaws.

The movie is such a delight, and the more you know about Fosse the more fun it is. Fosse was making Lenny, Gideon was making The Standup. Fosse was working on Chicago on Broadway, Gideon was making NY/LA. Get it?

Bob was going bald, so he liked hats. He didn’t like his hands, so he wore gloves. And he made the hat and gloves his trademark in dance. He thought he was awkward as a dancer (seeing him in Kiss Me Kate and Damn Yankees, I don’t see it, but that’s what he said) so he turned awkwardness into a whole new kind of dancing, a style you can spot instantly.

Could it be that there is a bright spot in all this sadness? Well, maybe a tiny one. Fosse was working on getting Chicago produced when he died. It was going to star … Madonna. Now, your first choice is often not the one that gets it, and Madonna is a hell of a singer, and I did like her in Evita, and she could have played Roxie Hart harder, like she was on Broadway, and it might even have been better than Renee Zellwegger … but I don’t think so. Chicago the movie was great, deserved the Best Picture Oscar, and most of what made it great was that it preserved the spirit of Fosse’s choreography.

And some people still have memories. Not long ago Ann Reinking re-created Dancin’, a show I never caught on Broadway, and you could see that Bob Fosse’s ghost was still very much alive. It’s on video from PBS.