The Old Globe’s Dancin’ is an Old Favorite with a New Tune

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Jōvan Dansberry with the cast of Bob Fosse's Dancin'. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy The Old Globe

By A.L. Haynes, Contributing Writer

For those interested in theater, Bob Fosse (pronounced “Fossy”) is an unavoidable name. For those who are generally uninterested, it is still likely you have seen his work. Classic films such as 1957’s The Pajama Game and 1979’s All That Jazz are prime examples. His name is also tied to the popular musical and film Chicago, as he was the original Broadway choreographer. The Old Globe recently tackled his ensemble favorite, Dancin’

Consisting of vignettes meant to capture human emotion while showcasing the dancers both individually and as a group, Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, is still considered one of the most difficult musical theater pieces ever conceived. Working with Wayne Cilento, Kirsten Childs (both performers in the original run of Dancin’), and Fosse’s daughter, Nicole Fosse, San Diego’s The Old Globe is offering an updated version of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ that resonates with modern audiences while keeping true to the spirit of its creator.

Bob Fosse remains best known for innovations such as choreographing each member of an ensemble individually, playing with audience expectations, and tastefully blatant sensual themes. The Old Globe’s revival demonstrates all of these facets. What draws the audience into the show is the dancing, but what keeps them there are the snippets of human drama interspersed throughout.   

The “Joint Endeavors” segment is a snapshot of this mastery, with intimate pas de deux, an oddly gritty-feeling version of Melissa Manchester’s “If It Feels Good (Let It Ride)”, and a background of individual reactions that add reality to the sense of peeking into another’s life.

Like many of Fosse’s works, the production is nothing without the ensemble as a whole. Dancin’ is particularly unique in that Fosse designed it to highlight the ensemble and the skills of the individual dancers that make it; there has never been a show quite like it before or since.

Jōvan Dansberry and Tony D’Alelio both turned in a no-holds-barred performance that encapsulated the joy of dance. Khori Michelle Petinaud enraptured the audience with her singing and acting, while Kolton Krouse did the same with acting and dancing. Yeman Brown, Manuel Herrera, and Yani Marin were stunning in their consistent precision and seeming effortlessness throughout.

(from left) Nando Morland, Khori Michelle Petinaud, Ron Todorwoski, Ioana Alfonso, Kolton Krouse, Mattie Love, Jōvan Dansberry, Manuel Herrera, and Ida Saki in Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy The Old Globe

Clinging to the spirit of Fosse’s genius, Director Cilento nonetheless acknowledged, “There were things in the original that wouldn’t work today…But it still needed to stay edgy, it still needed to keep his wit and sense of humor”. Seeking this balance, a considerate update of the “Recollections of An Old Dancer” can actually be seen as highlighting stolen voice rather than stealing it, while changing almost nothing for the song “Ain’t We Got Fun” retains the ironic hilarity of the piece.

Those familiar with Bob Fosse’s body of work will definitely have moments of recognition. Flashy ensemble numbers and bits of dialogue balance out more artistic elements. Shaky-legged relevés and some obvious counting during a tap-number may not have reflected Fosse’s insistence on perfection, but did not detract from the charm or tone of the show.

Unlike many traditional musical theater or dance productions, The Old Globe has embraced multiracial casting. In fact, the show is in direct opposition to (slowly changing) industry ideas that color disrupts aesthetics. Instead, a truer texture of life is seen as the short stories flow into each other. 

Those not particularly interested in musical theater can still enjoy Dancin’, as it purposefully has little plot and (almost) no random bursts of romantic song. The colors, lights, and general spectacle that made movies such as Chicago and The Greatest Show enjoyable are all present. Consideration should be used for children under 13 years, as guardians may find some moments too blatant, but the show has a broad appeal for adults of all interests. According to Playbill, the show may be progressing to a Broadway run later in the season.

Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ will be playing at The Old Globe through May 29, 2022. Tickets are available at www.theoldglobe.org/.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Article Updated May 9, 2022 to correct the spelling of Wayne Cilento & Yeman Brown

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