Episode 44: Liza with a Z (Fossepocalypse #7)

Liza with a Z

I mean, yeah.

The Fossepocalypse is lingering at the apex of Fosse’s GOT year (Grammy-Oscar-Tony) as Windy shows Mike and Vinnie the television special LIZA WITH A Z.

After SWEET CHARITY flopped, Fosse feared he would never work again and started lining up projects as fast as he could get someone to say “yes” – each one the back-up plan to the other. He got the idea for a one-night-only television special watching Liza rehearse all-out during the filming of CABARET and wanted to capture the transient excitement and energy of performing.

Liza had been performing cabarets and concerts for years, and many of the songs here were staples of her repertoire that Kander & Ebb had written especially for her.  Fosse added back-up dancers and his signature choreography, as well as his directorial vision lending an almost documentary feel.

If you’ve never seen Liza at the height of her powers, or (like Windy) have seen her in movies but never in a live concert setting – you’ve never really understood the power of Ms. Minelli.

Take a listen and Ring Them Bells with us!

The whole show is on Youtube here!

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled to spot Ann Reinking as a back-up dancer!

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Episode 43: Cabaret Part 2 (Fossepocalypse #6.5)

, with special guest:
Cabaret

“Professor, your wife is dancing on the table again.”

Welcome back to our discussion of CABARET, with our stunt film virgin Jenny providing her insights, while Mike and Vinnie discover a deeper appreciation for the film.

CABARET marks the end of Fosse and Verdon’s marriage, although they never divorced. (This particular point in their relationship is captured beautifully, and performed masterfully, in the miniseries FOSSE/VERDON.) It’s also where Fosse dreamed up the television special LIZA WITH A Z while watching Liza Minnelli dance and sing at 110% for every take.

CABARET would have been enough for Fosse to make his mark, and establish him as a bona fide artist – but pairing it with the Emmy for LIZA WITH A Z and the Tony for PIPPIN all in the same year crowned Fosse as a phenomenon.

Wilkommen! Come taste the wine, and take a listen to our thoughts on CABARET.

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Episode 42: Cabaret Part 1 (Fossepocalypse #6.5)

, with special guest:
Cabaret

Because “life is a depressing hellhole” didn’t fit the music cue

Listeners, the Fossepocalypse continues with (arguably) the high point of Fosse’s film career – CABARET.

Since all three of your hosts have seen this film before, we brought in our frequent stunt virgin Jenny. Jenny’s thoughts and reactions alone are worth a listen, but of course we’ve also got Mike making connections to SWEET CHARITY and Vinnie questioning what the fuck was wrong with the 70s while Windy tries to keep an accurate catalog of the drugs that fueled Fosse’s incredibly prolific – and award winning – year.

Liza Minnelli loved working with Fosse so much that they created the idea of the tv special “Liza with a Z” on the set of CABARET. Michael York has said it was the best acting experience of his career. Producer Cy Feuer wanted to murder Fosse before it was done.

So, your usual Fosse project.

So, come inside where life is beautiful and take a listen as we taste the wine, blow the horn, and celebrate CABARET.

 

Cabaret

Young Joel Grey says, “Welcome” and I say, “Hellooo, nurse!”

 

Fosse winning Best Director

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Episode 41: Sweet Charity Part 2 (Fossepocalypse #5.5)

Sweet Charity

Boy, those practically-prostitutes sure are wholesome and kooky!

Jazz hams, we continue our deep dive into the decadent depravity of Fosse with part two of our discussion of SWEET CHARITY.

While this was Fosse’s film directing debut, he was unafraid to experiment and found a willing accomplice in his cinematographer, Robert Surtees. The two of them created a visually striking film that critics adored – and audiences hated.

Gwen Verdon was on set assisting with choreography and coaching Shirley MacLaine in the role – a generous and classy move since Charity was created for Gwen by Bob. Watching Shirley in the role, you can almost see Gwen overlaid in the performance, particularly the dancing.

Shirley performing “I’m a Brass Band” in the movie

Gwen performing “I’m a Brass Band” on the Ed Sullivan show

Christina Applegate performing “I’m a Brass Band” Macy’s Parade

If you still haven’t watched SWEET CHARITY, you’ve never seen Shirley MacLaine dancing Bob Fosse and that means you’re missing out. There ain’t nothing better than this – so check it out!

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Episode 40: Sweet Charity Part 1 (Fossepocalypse #5)

Sweet Charity

The poster makes the movie look weirdly…wholesome

Listeners, this week is a real treat – Vinnie and Mike watch Fosse’s film directing debut SWEET CHARITY for the first time ever!

This musical was Gwen Verdon’s combined “come back” and “swan song” – she had taken time off to have a child with Bob and be a mother, and at 41 wanted one last big starring vehicle on Broadway, before she got too old (crazily enough, this was NOT her last big starring Broadway vehicle. That would come nine years later with CHICAGO). By the time the studios wanted a film version – three years later in 1969 – Gwen was too old for a film version of the role and instead generously coached Shirley MacLaine on the role.

Shirley MacLaine – discovered while understudying for Carol Haney in PAJAMA GAME – was a huge star by the point, and used her influence to get Fosse his first gig helming a movie.  Cinematographer Robert Surtees found himself with a director eager to learn and willing to try anything and everything, and the result is Fosse all over.

So, spend a little time with us as we gush about SWEET CHARITY!

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Episode 39: Damn Yankees, Part 2 (Fossepocalypse #4.5)

Damn Yankees

She gets hotter everytime I look at her

Fine folk of Jazzhandia, this week we wrap up DAMN YANKEES with part two of our episode. Part two is pretty much all Gwen-love.

Gwen was Jack Cole’s star dancer who – like Fosse – gave up on being a movie star and headed to Broadway where she made a big splash almost instantly.

DAMN YANKEES was her first starring role, and it’s a doozy! Lola is arguably the best character in the show, played with heart and depth by our favorite sassy redhead.

This movie would be Gwen’s only major film role, and the only time she and Fosse would dance together on film.

Take a listen!

Who’s Got the Pain?

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Episode 38: Damn Yankees (Fossepocalypse #4)

Damn Yankees

Gwen Verdon…DAMN, son

Jazz Hams! This week’s episode is the exact same production team delivering the goods – yet again – in DAMN YANKEES. This time with a heaping helping of Gwen Verdon!

(SIDENOTE: Mike’s mic has a weird echo and we do apologize for the odd audio – it eventually corrects.)

Jack Warner made a two-picture deal with George Abbott to bring THE PAJAMA GAME and DAMN YANKEES to the screen faithfully from Broadway (with the help of the inimitable Stanley Donen of the Freed Unit). And god bless him, because this is the only film performance we have of Gwen Verdon at the height of her substantial powers.

Neither Mike nor Vinnie had seen this before, so this was a revelation to both, and a good compare/contrast to THE PAJAMA GAME.

With such classics as “Heart,” “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo,” and (of course) “Whatever Lola Wants,” DAMN YANKEES won’t bring the pain – we promise!

Damn Yankees

I’ve got a pain just looking at that move. Also – Verdon & Fosse together!

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Episode 37: The Pajama Game, Part 2 (Fossepocalypse #3.5)

The Pajama Game

Pajamas as everyday wear: discuss

The Fossepocalypse continues with the continuation of our discussion of THE PAJAMA GAME!

Steam Heat

Once a Year Day

Hernando’s Hideaway

There Once Was a Man

Small Talk

Hey There

…that’s a half dozen reasons you should seek out this movie right away!

 

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Episode 36: The Pajama Game (Fossepocalypse #3) Part 1

The Pajama Game

Not pictured: bare-chested John Raitt.

Jazz hams, the Fossepocalypse continues with the oft-overlooked, and amazingly entertaining THE PAJAMA GAME!

As we discuss in this episode, the dances created here actually predate MY SISTER EILEEN.  It was his work on THE PAJAMA GAME that got him the job on EILEEN, in fact!  But the movie version of PAJAMA GAME came after.

Fosse’s signature style is still in development, but when it appears (“Steam Heat”) it is unmistakable. This is sadly the only film record we have of Carol Haney’s Tony-winning performance, and her only film speaking role.  She was a singular talent:  an amazing dancer and a brilliant comedienne.

The Broadway legend John Raitt also gives his one-and-only screen performance, using his manly chest and sublime voice to woo the sassy Babe Williams (Doris Day).

Vinnie and Mike fell so much in love with this movie – and Windy had so many great tidbits to share – that this episode ends up being a two-parter.  It may be our “Once a Year Day” but we’ll have it twice – tune in next week for part two!

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050814/

Episode 35: My Sister Eileen (Fossepocalypse #2)

My Sister Eileen

It’s a Wonderful Town! …wait.

Jazz Hams! It’s time to begin our season of devotion to the master: Bob Fosse.

This is the second episode of the Fossepocalypse because way-back-when (Episode 17, November 27, 2018) we began the Fossepocalypse with KISS ME, KATE.  Inspired by the impending miniseries Fosse/Verdon, we have now committed to the Fossepocalypse completely:  we will watch his entire musical filmography (plus a few bonus works) in chronological order (or as close to it as we can manage).  By doing so, we will be able to track the evolution of his choreography, his directorial style, and his self-destruction.

This week we begin with his first choreography credit for a whole movie:  MY SISTER EILEEN (which is just WONDERFUL TOWN by a different road). (Mike and Vinnie had never even heard of this one, of course.) Still hoping to make it as a star himself, Fosse leveraged his contract as choreographer into an acting role as well. He may not have become the next Fred Astaire, but we did get the amazing “Alley Dance” with Tommy Rall.

My Sister Eileen

Fosse being Fosse

My Sister Eileen

Tommy Rall being Tommy Rall

Betty Garrett (our gal Brunhilde Esterhazy from ON THE TOWN) stars in her biggest movie role (thanks to McCarthyism, her career was cut short) and she knocks it out of the park. Paired with the charming Jack Lemmon, with Janet Leigh (yes, that Janet Leigh) in the titular role, it’s a charming film that gets overshadowed by it’s more well-known counterpart (the wonderful town mentioned previously).

Fosse’s signature style is still in development, as he works to prove he can choreograph just as well as his idols. But we get his percussive snaps and pops, plus some wonderful small group work. Also, one of Fosse’s largest on-screen roles.

For Fosse fans (and that is us), this is a must-see!

Alley Dance

Give Me a Band

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