An intimate look into the turbulent relationship between director/choreographer Bob Fosse and legendary Broadway star Gwen Verdon as they create musical magic and history.
Number of Episodes: 8
Chicago the musical stage show and movie version is one of my all time favourite things. Therefore something based on Bob Fosse was always going to come on my radar for viewing. I had heard about the FX TV mini-series and had been checking for UK viewing. I must have been totally hidden from everything though when last Saturday morning all episodes were available after episode one had been broadcast on BBC Two! So thank you BBC and even more so for allowing me to download all eight episodes.
The show looks at the relationship between Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon on a professional and personal level. As they embark on a great romance, if that is the correct term to use for a somewhat dysfunctional relationship. They brought out the best in one another when it came to the stage and even with film. Personally though they seemed destined to destroy one another but something that was very clear was that they did have a deep love and passion towards the other. Having a daughter Nicole, who was heavily featured throughout and was involved in the making of this series.
The format of each episode was something that I felt could have been done in a better way. When we are told the year and the production that was taking place we were also told how many years Fosse had left. I felt as though that was a very strange way to go about it, as he died of a heart attack at only 60 years old. He wanted to be a famous dancer and was a very impressive and good dancer. Everything didn’t work out for him as a performer though and he became a choreographer and director. His style is still very much unique and you can even tell to this day when you are watching a Fosse musical, everything still pays homage to that nowadays. Yes, that was a slight Chicago pun thrown in there.
Something I didn’t know a lot about was Gwen Verdon so I am pleased to say that this has opened up my eyes to the incredible broadway performer. An interesting episode certainly had to be for Sweet Charity the film version when Shirley MacLaine was the lead in the film production a role in which Gwen was nominated for a Tony Award! She was a six time nominee and a four time winner.
The problem with Bob Fosse was that he loved women and the dancers from his shows. His infidelity became a problem for Gwen which to be brutally honest she should not have been surprised about considering he was married when they first started together. It seemed to be accepted for him to do it but not for anyone to do it to him. This then sees them separate but the pair never actually got divorced. It showed how his relationship with Ann Reinking was quite possibly the next important one to Gwen.
The lifestyle of working on Broadway and Movies certainly had its toll on Nicole and she started experimenting with alcohol and cigarettes from an early age during parties. Both parents while obviously loved her also did not treat her as a child which certainly would not have helped her downfall. Highlighting just how tough it can be for children with famous parents working in that very different world.
I loved seeing the different rehearsal scenes from Sweet Charity (which flopped), Cabaret and then onto Chicago. The latter being something Gwen had wanted to get the rights to for so many years. It wasn’t initially a runaway success but it was worked on and made into one, something I found really important. When you think as well following on from that a biopic from Fosse “All That Jazz” is a film that is incredible and also features in this series.
My only small issue with the series was the timeline which at first you think is going to easily follow on and move through the years jumps backwards and forwards. Not always been shown as a memory either which at times stopped the flow of the relationships. It must not be easy to be in a relationship with someone who acts all the time, that was something else I took from these eight episodes.
Michelle Williams seems to love taking on very different roles and I certainly loved seeing her as Gwen Verdon getting a few small musical numbers to perform as well which was a total bonus. The character was very over the top at times and I guess the biggest compliment I can pay is that at times I actually for it was Williams. Matching up with the ever brilliant Sam Rockwell and watching him as Fosse is a very special experience. I am not really sure who else could have so effortlessly become this genius of a character.