There isn’t really a place on the current Broadway scene, governed as it is by star vehicles and recognizable IP. How can a program of unlinked vignettes and anonymous dancers command top dollar the way Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ did 45 years ago?
That show wasn’t just a hit, it was a phenomenon, running for more than four years, largely just on the Fosse name and greater interest in the art of dance alone. Wayne Cilento, one of the original Dancin’ dancer, revised the show and, as director, mounted his new at the Old Globe in San Diego. That production has now arrived on Broadway, and this mélange of toe-tappers might turn audiences into head-scratchers.
Highlights include Manuel Herrera, a standout, sings Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles,” danced by Jacob Guzman (who also pulls off a literal hat trick towards the end of the show) and Yeman Brown. Dancin’ also includes snippets from hits such as Sweet Charity (“Big Spender,” “Rich Man’s Frug”) and Liza With a “Z” (“I Gotcha”). The new lineup is intentionally more inclusive and responds to some (but not all) of Fosse’s unchecked male privilege. The dancers of the “Female Star Spot” complain about the lyrics of Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” and the nonbinary Kolotn Krouse, essays Reinking’s iconic nothing-but-legs “Trumpet Solo.” (But seriously, what did Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil ever do to you?)
There’s a fundamental identity crisis at the heart of the show, though. Is Dancin’ a tribute to the art form or a tribute to Fosse itself? The lineup of the show includes a tribute to Big Deal, Fosse’s final Broadway show, but its inclusion makes no narrative sense. Additionally, the dancers were frequently out of sync with one another throughout the show. If Cilento wants to celebrate dance, maybe he should go back to the drawing board a bit.