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Everything You Need to Know Before Watching Fosse/Verdon

04.04.19

BY: MAGGIE PARKER

Fosse fanatics and theater lovers across the land are anxiously awaiting the premiere of FX’s new limited series, Fosse/Verdon. The TV show is based on Sam Wasson’s biography of famed film and stage choreographer and director Bob Fosse and is about his creative and romantic partnership with triple-threat Gwen Verdon. The series spans five decades and Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell will play the theatrical icons.

Broadway Spin has gathered everything you need to know before Fosse/Verdon premieres April 9.

Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon, Sam Rockwell as Bob Fosse. Photo: Pari Dukovic/FX

Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon, Sam Rockwell as Bob Fosse. Photo: Pari Dukovic/FX

They met in the beginning of their careers: Fosse got his start in show business in 1940, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that he first choreographed a full musical, Pajama Game. Verdon made her first appearance on Broadway in Alive and Kicking in 1950, but it was Cole Porter’s Can-Can that made her a star in 1953. Then came Damn Yankees. Verdon was cast in the Broadway show even though choreographer Fosse was hesitant at first. Good thing he did; they both earned Tony Awards for their work on that production.

They went on to work together… a lot: The success of Damn Yankees led to a film version in 1958, with Verdon reprising her role of Lola. Fosse actually cameos in the movie, dancing with Verdon for the mambo duet “Who’s Got the Pain.” They got married in 1960 and that same year, Fosse directed and choreographed his first Broadway musical, Redhead, in which Verdon played the lead role. Then came Sweet Charity, which Verdon starred in onstage as Charity. When the film adaptation was made, Verdon helped with the choreography but Shirley MacLaine took her place in front of the camera. Verdon also helped Fosse with the choreography of Cabaret, which went for three decades — but she was often went uncredited.

They were seen as one of the most successful couples in showbiz: Between them they have 15 Tony Awards. Redhead cemented the couple as one of the most impressive in the industry, as it won six Tony Awards. “Only Bob can create the groundbreaking musicals that allow Gwen to showcase her greatness. Only Gwen can realize the unique vision in Bob’s head. Together, they will change the face of American entertainment – at a perilous cost,” FX states.

Photo: Instagram, @fosseverdonfx.

They had one child, who was involved in the TV series: Verdon and Fosse welcomed Nicole Fosse in 1963. She is their only child (although Verdon had a son from another relationship). Blake Baumgartner (young Nicole) and Julie Brett (older Nicole) play her in the series. Nicole appears in six episodes as she “finds herself growing up in the long shadow of her parents’ illustrious careers, caught between her desperation for their approval and her determination to forge an identity of her own,” FX explains. In real life, Nicole became an actress and dancer. Nicole also played an important role behind the scenes of Fosse/Verdon; she served as the co-executive producer. She also oversees the The Verdon Fosse Legacy.

Their partnership was drama-filled: “As Bob journeys from fledgling Broadway choreographer to lauded auteur of stage and screen, he fuels his manic creativity with drugs, alcohol, and sex, often abusing his celebrity and power to feed his appetites,” FX describes. At the same time, Gwen goes from a legendary triple-threat, winning four Tony Awards in six years, to an actress “struggling to stay relevant in an industry obsessed with youth, novelty and double standards.” Eventually their relationship unravels in the face of Bob’s increasingly self-destructive tendencies. They never divorced, though, only separated. They remained close and continued working together until Fosse’s death. Verdon was present when he died from a heart attack in 1987.

Photo: Instagram, @fosseverdonfx

The series will feature other Broadway legends and stars: Sure, the headliners, are huge, but those aren’t the only big names involved in the series. Lin Manuel Miranda is an executive producer. As for the other characters, Fosse and Verdon surrounded themselves with a coterie of fellow artists that will be showcased in the series. Playwright Paddy Chayefsky will be played by Norbert Leo Butz, playwright Neil Simon will be played by Nate Corddry, theater producer and director Hal Prince will be played by Evan Handler, and Joel Grey will be portrayed by Ethan Slater. In terms of the legendary ladies, Kelli Barrett will play Liza Minnelli, Bianca Marroquin will play Chita Rivera, and Laura Osnes will play Shirley MacLaine.

The series will feature famous Fosse/Verdon choreography: Last but most definitely not least, the series will feature original pieces as well as some of the most iconic works of Fosse and Verdon’s careers. The show’s choreographer is Andy Blankenbuehler, who directed and choreographed Bandstand and choreographed Hamilton, In The Heights, the 1999 Broadway revival of Fosse, and others.