Bob Fosse Critical Essays

Introduction

Bob Fosse 1925–

American director, choreographer, dancer, actor, and screen-writer.

The world Fosse creates is artificial and theatrical. His films are "musical dramas," musically-oriented films with sophisticated themes and stark realism.

Following a career as a dancer on Broadway, Fosse began to choreograph. The stage musicals he later directed developed his creativity in dance as well as his awareness of show business. These elements are reflected in his first film, Sweet Charity, which he had previously directed and choreographed on Broadway. Based on Fellini's Nights of Cabiria, Sweet Charity has received critical acclaim for Fosse's distinctive musical numbers. However, some critics feel that Sweet Charity is not indicative of his later style, believing that Fosse felt compelled to film a flamboyant production with an established star such as Shirley MacLaine. Cabaret is considered a landmark film: a movie with music rather than a movie musical. This film, based on Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories, provides musical entertainment while analyzing Nazi Germany. By focusing on the cabaret's stage to draw a sharp contrast between reality and fantasy, Fosse makes the nightclub a microcosm of life.

Fosse's autobiography, All That Jazz, has been likened to Fellini's 8 1/2. Fosse portrays himself as an obsessed, exhausted director who drives himself to death because of his desire to succeed. Although Fosse has been criticized for emphasizing the destructive side of show business, his view of the theater and his choreography are considered exciting and innovative.

Of his decision to create a dramatic musical form, Fosse says, "Today I get very antsy watching movies in which people are singing as they walk down the street…. You can do it on the stage. The theater has its own personality—it conveys a removed reality. The movies bring that closer."