“What a step up – holy cow – they’d never believe it. If my friends could see me now.”
Fosse left a legacy with his creations – Chicago, Pajama Game, Sweet Charity, Cabaret. His unique style and quality of work is admired and sought after as something to study and embrace. Even when not learning his choreography for a show, having the opportunity to learn it in workshops and master classes from those who worked with him directly is a special experience. From the intricate but important qualities found in the details of each step; to the placement of the hands; to how each individual aspect is critical in completing the picture. Breaking down the nuances and delicate details that emerge from the memories and notes of what Fosse told those he worked with are priceless moments. To feel as if one has been brought into the room and is privy to the information that became a treasured gift inspires performers of all backgrounds.
The one woman memory play, Call Fosse at the Minskoff, written and performed by Steps’ guest teacher Mimi Quillin and directed by John Thomas Waite, is based on her experience as the assistant to Fosse and Verdon on the first Broadway revival of Sweet Charity. On December 3rd she shared her show at Steps as a benefit for The Steps Beyond Foundation. Her play, awarded the Best Production in the 2016 United Solo Festival, offers the details from her first hand experiences of what went into those famous steps.
Not only does Quillin show her talents at performing, but the strength of her writing is also evident in how she pieces together her personal stories to seamlessly share what it was like throughout the process of recreating the dance numbers in Sweet Charity. It is remarkable to watch Quillin as she talks about what happened from her point of view, and to then suddenly take the audience deeper into the memories as she embodies the unique physical and vocal qualities of Fosse and Verdon. The ways in which she fully epitomizes them makes it feel as though each of the moments is happening as the story progresses.
Some moments in the show are lighthearted and filled with laughter, but there are also those that show the frustration when something happened that didn’t fall in line with what was wanted or expected. The show humanizes these two legends while capturing the truths and intimate bond that is created among three artists all working toward an ideal. Quillin’s attention to detail in describing the movements in the choreography paints a picture of the intricacies of the work, and just how much planning was put into creating the final product. Channeling Verdon, physically and vocally, she shares Verdon’s visualization of steps from “The Frug”– “… when you’re in The Slope, you’re stepping into a mink coat and riding in a Ferrari. And in ‘Something Better Than This.’ Guadalajara! Guadalajara! You’re in Guadalajara. … Don’t treat them like steps. They’re like words in a script. Dance the meaning of the steps.” Call Fosse at the Minskoff could be described as the backstory to the choreography that one doesn’t see when watching each dance. The motivation behind what makes it work.
Quillin embraced her role as assistant to Fosse and Verdon, and notes, “they ended up putting the dances together from their memories and a VHS copy of the movie Sweet Charity that Bob directed with Shirley MacLaine. Working with Gwen, I help transcribe the show.” But the inspiration behind the steps was genius and came from characters and events of the time. As Quillin explains “when looking at a prop, you aren’t just seeing a prop. There is a story behind it. Could be a person, and how they relate to the item.” Fosse took his visions and the meaning behind them, and made magic.
More than what it was like working on Sweet Charity, the show also offers a deep and personal look at who Quillin is, and how the experience shaped her as an artist and person. For example, Quillin discusses the importance in having the complete package — acting, singing, and dancing — in order to fulfill the needs of the moments…a point not lost on her students in her master classes. She emphasizes to be fully engaged in the moment, and that every aspect is as important as the next. No step goes unnoticed. They are all a piece in completing the image. Powerful lessons that she learned from the masters and generously passes to the next generation.
Call Fosse At The Minskoff ties in nicely with having the opportunity to learn some of the works of the legendary Bob Fosse. Steps on Broadway is hosting the Bob Fosse Master Class Series in February.
– Anne-Allegra Bennett
Assistant to the Director of Group Programs
STEPS ON BROADWAY presents
THE BOB FOSSE MASTER CLASSES SERIES
Big Deal, All that Jazz, Sweet Charity & more…
taught by Verdon Fosse Legacy LLC Reconstructeurs
2/13 – 3/3 •Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 2:30-4:30pm