Top 10 Facts Fosse/Verdon Got RIGHT

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Top 10 Facts Fosse/Verdon Got RIGHT

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Behind all the “razzle dazzle” is a true story and there are a lot of facts Fosse/Verdon got RIGHT.
Transcript
Behind all the “razzle dazzle” is a true story. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Facts Fosse/Verdon Got Right.

For this list, we’re taking a look at plot points and details from this Emmy-winning limited series that are true to the real lives of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon.

#10: Bob’s Backstage Encounter


While the miniseries only touches upon Fosse’s youth in a few brief flashbacks, it’s made clear that whatever childhood he had was cut short. Nowhere is this more apparent than when a 13-year-old Fosse is molested in a burlesque club by multiple exotic dancers. According to the biography “Fosse” by Sam Wasson, which this series is based on, Fosse was indeed abused by dancers at the burlesque club he worked at. In a Rolling Stones interview, Fosse recounted, “It gave me an edge. I had mixed feelings about it, though. I was very excited, but I wasn’t ready for sex.” Well into his adulthood, Fosse struggled with commitment and relationships in general. Some would cite this early encounter as the root of these lifelong issues.

#9: Bob Went to the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic



On the surface, 1973 seemed like a phenomenal year for Fosse. He went down as the first and only person to win at the Oscars, Emmys, and Tonys in the span of one year. Even with all his professional success, though, the director/choreographer couldn’t find satisfaction and became overwhelmed with suicidal thoughts. Fosse reportedly suffered from “impostor syndrome,” which is when someone begins to question their accomplishments and fear that they may be seen as a “fraud.” Of course, this term didn’t exist yet in 1973. As explored in the miniseries, Fosse checked into New York’s Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic following a nervous breakdown. His stay was short-lived, however, as he’d soon be juggling directorial duties for two highly demanding productions.

#8: Verdon Wanted to do “Chicago”


“Chicago” is arguably the most famous show Fosse brought to Broadway, but the miniseries reveals that it likely wouldn’t have come together without Verdon. Actually, the same can be said about many of Fosse’s endeavors. It was Verdon who discovered the original 1926 play and suggested to Fosse that they adapt it into a musical. Playwright Maurine Dallas Watkins repeatedly refused to sign off on the project, but Fosse, Verdon, and producer Richard Fryer secured the rights following her death in 1969. Even as Fosse’s profile raised and his priorities shifted, Verdon remained adamant about getting “Chicago” off the ground. Ultimately, Fosse decided to work on “Chicago” and his Lenny Bruce biopic at the same time, providing the basis for the semi-autobiographical “All That Jazz.”

#7: Fosse’s Self-Destructive Behavior


Some celebrities do everything in their power to conceal their true nature from the public. In the film “All That Jazz,” though, Fosse put many of his inner demons on the screen for audiences to witness. We’re given an even more in-depth look at Fosse’s erratic, reckless tendencies in this miniseries. Fosse is shown to be a workaholic who seemingly can’t go a second without a cigarette. Fosse was even more addicted to sex, having more than one extramarital affair. While Fosse isn’t without loved ones, he frequently finds new ways to alienate and disappoint them. The series is fair in its portrayal of Fosse, depicting him as a deeply flawed man who nevertheless wanted to do right by his family and tried the best he could.

#6: Verdon Took a Bow in a Towel


Although Gwen Verdon never got as much credit as her husband, she was still among the most revered Broadway actresses of her generation. This is demonstrated through a scene where Verdon is changing during a performance of “Can-Can.” To her shock, Verdon is called back to the stage with only enough time to wrap herself in a towel. The crowd is going so wild for Verdon that she takes a bow in the midst of the show. It’s the kind of moment that every performer dreams of, which may lead some viewers to believe that it’s pure fantasy. In reality, Verdon really did receive a seven-minute standing ovation, prompting her to bow in a towel. It’s no wonder why this role won her a Tony.

#5: Verdon & Reinking’s Dynamic


It’s no secret that Fosse was romantically involved with actress/dancer Ann Reinking from 1972 to 1978. Watching the miniseries, though, viewers may be surprised to learn that Fosse’s longtime girlfriend got along quite well with Verdon. While she was still legally married to Fosse, Verdon came to view Reinking as a friend rather than her husband’s mistress. Reinking also developed a close bond with Fosse and Verdon’s daughter Nicole, which essentially made her part of the family. Even after Fosse passed away, Reinking remained on good terms with Verdon. As a matter of fact, Reinking was largely responsible for reviving “Chicago” in 1996. The revival was met with overwhelming approval from Verdon, who later collaborated with Reinking on the 1999 musical “Fosse.”

#4: Verdon Wanted “Nowadays” to Be a Solo


“Nowadays” is one of the most famous duets in all musical theater, leaving “Chicago” on a high note. Believe it or not, Verdon originally envisioned the number as a solo for her character, Roxie Hart. Fosse objected to the show’s ending, insisting that Verdon share the number with actress Chita Rivera, who played Velma Kelly. According to Wasson, Verdon actually told Fosse, “I want this song.” In the miniseries, Fosse’s motivations for changing the number are left up for interpretation. You could argue that Fosse wanted to hurt Verdon, but it’s also possible that he genuinely felt a duet would work better. In any case, there was definitely tension between the two throughout the production of “Chicago” and Fosse ultimately got his way with “Nowadays.”

#3: Fosse & Verdon Never Divorced


We’ve all heard the phrase, “celebrity marriages don’t last.” On one hand, Fosse and Verdon were no different. On the other hand, they were a rare exception. As the miniseries shows us, their marriage was beyond repair after Fosse cheated on Verdon during the production of “Cabaret.” The two separated in 1971 and while they never got back together, they never legally divorced either. Following the separation, the two continued to raise their daughter together and would collaborate on several projects. In 1981, Verdon described Fosse as, “the best friend I’ve got.” Even when they started dating different people, there seemed to be an understanding that Fosse and Verdon would remain husband and wife. The marriage didn’t technically end until 1987 when Fosse passed away.

#2: The Gorilla Mask


Even the most outlandish storyline in “Fosse/Verdon” is – bizarrely enough – fairly spot-on. In the first episode, Verdon flies to Germany to help Fosse on “Cabaret.” Verdon has to fly all the way back to New York, however, to pick up a gorilla mask for the “If You Could See Her” number. Fosse refuses to settle for Germany’s only gorilla suit. When Verdon returns with the Gorilla head, she finds her husband in bed with a German interpreter named Hannah. Although this remains mostly true to real life, the miniseries changes one detail. Fosse was actually fooling around with “a couple of German girls,” according to Wasson’s biography. While a divorce didn’t ensue, this was the straw that broke the gorilla’s back.

#1: Verdon Was with Fosse in the End


From the first episode, Fosse is like a ticking time bomb. The audience knows that his days are numbered and the clock runs out on September 23, 1987. Given Fosse’s lifetime of addictions, it’s not surprising that he died at age 60. What is surprising is that Verdon was present for her husband’s fatal heart attack. Just like in the miniseries, Fosse collapsed in Verdon’s arms on their way to a “Sweet Charity” revival. They never made it into the National Theatre, as Fosse fell on the sidewalk near the Willard Hotel. Fosse was taken to George Washington University Hospital, but the doctors couldn’t revive him. While the trip to the hospital is omitted from the miniseries, Verdon was by Fosse’s side until the end.
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