Pre-Broadway Review: BOB FOSSE’S DANCIN’ (The Old Globe)

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by Tony Frankel on May 12, 2022

in Dance,Theater-San Diego


With seemingly hundreds of thousands of Bob Fosse footsteps in Dancin‘ — now receiving a pre-Broadway updated revival at San Diego’s Old Globe — you’d think this love letter to Fosse’s original 1978 Broadway hit would be as exciting as they come. Unfortunately, not so. Fosse’s style — evidenced in Sweet Charity (The Frug) and Chicago (tilted bowler hats, jazz hands), among others — possesses many qualities that have made his work a trademark. That style still retains wit, excitement, brassiness, and effervescence, but it doesn’t match this outing, which has no plot, no characters, no original songs, and no structure. (The eclectic score includes works from John Philip Sousa, Neil Diamond, Louis Prima and — in the most wrong-headed vignette of the night — Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil’s “Here You Come Again.”) OK, nothing wrong with a spectacular recital, especially when some numbers are marvelous. But there are a surprising amount of weak ones. The strength in this two-act 2-hour, 20-minute evening is only in compartments.

Jacob Guzman
Kolton Krouse, Ida Saki, Khori Michelle Petinaud, Jacob Guzman, and Yani Marin

Original cast member Wayne Cilento (Tony-nominated for Dancin’ in ’77) tweaked some numbers, added “woke” elements to others for a 21st-century crowd, and included a chunk of Fosse’s flop and final show Big Deal (1978) — which while fascinating helped to elucidate why it did indeed flop. Cilento also kept the flaws which made for me when I first saw it in college a shoulder-shrugger. Spoken introductions remain awkward and generally weak, and singers still carry mics up ladders with no purpose (here on rolling rock concert towers by set designer Robert Brill). The most exciting routines used phenomenal swing: ‘Sing, Sing, Sing” and “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar,” led by Darryl Archibald and his stunningly wonderful live orchestra executing Jim Abbott‘s smart orchestrations and David Dabbon‘s exciting arrangements.

Jacob Guzman, Ron Todorowski, Karli Dinardo, and Peter Chursin
Jōvan Dansberry

If there was one thing that would have unified the show, it would have been — wait for it! — the dancing. Cilento was so intent on having a diverse cast that he missed what was desperately needed: cohesion. The dancers’ hands don’t match; the bends don’t match; the leg lifts don’t match. I’ve seen better synchronization on a Carnival Cruise. How could this have possibly happened? Fortunately, we have some stars in the cast who outshine the proceedings. Manuel Herrera not only sings a wonderful “Mr. Bojangles” but his dancing is pure Fosse, sexy, sure and sharp, and Tony d’Alelio thrills with a blazing stage presence. Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung offer fun but occasionally ill-fitting costumes which go from ragtag to classic to sultry to flashy flapper fringe dresses.

Sure the evening offers some entertainment, but it’s kind of lemon icing without a cake. Saddest of all is that not one of the twenty dancers on stage comes close to the great Ann Reinking, original Dancin’ cast member and Fosse’s muse and lover who passed away in 2020 at 71. I know they’re out there — I’ve seen some recently on Broadway in the chorus. Everything about Reinking danced: her teeth, her face, her spirit. Ah, she is sorely missed.

Jacob Guzman and Mattie Love
Nando Morland, Khori Michelle Petinaud, Ron Todorwoski, Ioana Alfonso,
Kolton Krouse, Mattie Love, Jōvan Dansberry, Manuel Herrera, and Ida Saki

photos by by Julieta Cervantes

Dylis Croman, Yani Marin, Ioana Alfonso, Ida Saki,
Mattie Love, Karli Dinardo, and Khori Michelle Pertinaud

Bob Fosse’s Dancin’
The Old Globe
Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage
1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, San Diego
ends on May 29, 2022
for tickets, call 619.234-5623 or visit The Old Globe

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Tony Frankel May 2, 2023 at 3:50 pm

I don’t get it. I reviewed the out-of-town tryout at The Old Globe in San Diego, and it seems they didn’t change a thing when it went to Broadway. What the hell are out-of-town tryouts for anymore? Publicity? More and more musicals aren’t changing a thing before Broadway and then shutter early on. What a shame that Dancin’ wasn’t all about dancing. No shock that it sputtered and died.


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