Jimmy Lapis 10/14 Dance for Musical Theatre Research Paper: Inst. 2 Robert Louis Fosse 1927-1987 Robert Louis Fosse was born on June 23, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the son of a vaudevillian and appropriately enough was born into the theatre. As a child, the art of dance wasn't only used as a past time by young Fosse, but rather as a way of gaining attention from friends and family. From an early age he had already started studying ballet, tap and acrobatic dance.
As Fosse grew up, his talented dancing and signature showmanship had began molding his future career. While still a teenager, he performed with a partner as the Riff brothers in vaudeville and burlesque theaters. Before moving to New York and studying acting at the American Theatre Wing, Fosse finished High School in 1945 and had spent two years in the U. S Navy. He also made extra money tapping in burlesque halls and strip clubs, where he was exposed to provocative gestures and poses of strippers. After moving to New York, Fosse landed his first Broadway job in the chorus of Call Me Mister (1948). His Broadway debut, however, followed two years later in Dance Me a Song (1950).
After debuting on Broadway Fosse set his sights on Hollywood with dreams of becoming the next Fred Astaire. It was film work, which included three small films including Kiss Me Kate (1953), which helped Fosse realize his place was in theatre. His return to theatre brought on Pajama Game (1954). This was Fosse's big break, which catapulted his Broadway choreographic career. Veteran director / playwright George Abbot took a chance on a young man to choreograph his show. Fosse's ground-breaking choreography and staging in one of the numbers, "Steam Heat" was the talk of New York and a huge success.
Fosse's signature movements he learned back in the burlesque and strip clubs, were now mesmerizing Broadway audiences. Fosse's choreographic signature was a formula all his own. "Small groups of dancers executing sometimes disjointed or torturously slow-motion movements drilled to the lift of an eyebrow", was how one dance magazine critic described it. At times he seemed to take the human body apart and make each piece work separately. The choreographer / dancer relationship was also different when it came to Fosse. He never taught anything he didn't know or research and always gave respect while expecting it in return.
After Pajama Game Fosse found himself in demand by countless Broadway producers, directors and even choreographers. He worked alongside Abbot again on Damn Yankees, which was his first of many shows with dance legend Gwen Verdon, chiefly remembered for her performance "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets". He also worked with Judy Holiday on Bells are Ringing and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Robert Morse. While the Choreographer / Producer relationships Fosse had established flourished so did one of his Choreographer / Dancer relationships.
After working on Damn Yankees with Gwen Verdon she seemed to epitomize his signature movements and emotion. She had dazzling long legs and double-jointed shoulders, which seemed to flow with Fosse's dance steps so easily. From then on Verdon was leading lady in almost all of Fosse's shows. After hits with New Girl in Town (1957) and Redhead (1959), one of Broadway's greatest partnerships got married in 1960.
By now, Fosse was directing as well as choreographing his shows. He became one of those rare directors who could do it all and accomplish anything. During the course of the year he also became a father when Gwen gave birth to their daughter Nicole. He staged Blockbuster hits one after the other following Sweet Charity with Pippin (1972), Chicago (1975) and Dancin' (1978). These four shows alone notched up over 5,000 performances between them, and Fosse finished up with a total of eight Tony's. While all of Fosse's recognition was based on his Broadway work he also had a successful career in movies.
His choreography for My Sister Eileen (1955), The Pajama Game (1957) and Damn Yankees (1958) was well received. However in 1969 Fosse was the first man since Busby Berkeley to be given absolute control over a production with the release of Sweet Charity. The result was a box-office nightmare, and for four years no one in Hollywood wanted to know him. Fosse soon bounced back though, after a string of directors had turned him down, he took charge of the movie Cabaret in 1972 which took home an Academy Award. He soon became the first to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony Award, all in the same year. Later that year he took home an emmy for Liza Minelli's television special "Liza with a Z" and a Tony for the stage show Pippin.
After being shoved out of Hollywood Fosse rose to the top. Working with such stars as Dustin Hoffman in Lenny (1974), Eric Roberts in Star 80 (1983) and Roy Scheide r in his (Fosse's) autobiographical film All That Jazz (1979). However, the relentless workload and stress conveyed in All That Jazz plagued Fosse in the long run. His chain smoking caught up with him during work on Chicago when he suffered a heart attack and his marriage to Verdon also ended in divorce. Just like his two prior ones with dancers Mary Niles and Joan McCracken. Mirroring his auto-biographical movie, All That Jazz (1979) Fosse himself died just moments before the curtain went up on the triumphant revival of Sweet Charity in 1987.