'Fosse' is likely winner for year's best musical

June 06, 1999|By J. Wynn Rousuck

Even in a musically deficient Broadway season, a few words should be said about the contenders for best musical. Three of this year's four nominees are essentially revues: "Fosse," "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues" and "The Civil War," which has been described by its composer as "an emotional tapestry of the times."

The only traditional book musical is "Parade." A moving, hard-edged, musically sophisticated account of the true-life lynching of a Jew in 1915 Georgia, it was as stirring as it was daring. But "was" is the operative word here. "Parade" closed in February, making it an underdog for a Tony.

The likely winner would appear to be "Fosse," a stunning tribute to the late director/choreographer Bob Fosse. Co-conceivers Richard Maltby Jr., Chet Walker and Ann Reinking have assembled an anthology of material ranging from TV specials to numbers from such well-known Fosse hits as "Cabaret" and "Chicago."

The cast is made up of Fosse proteges as well as newcomers meticulously trained in Fosse's distinctive style, with its angularity, sleek isolated body movements and tightly synchronized clumps and wedges of dancers. It's a tour de force revue. But it seems a shame that the top prize for the genre will probably go to a show made up of bits and pieces, instead of to the thing itself.

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