‘Glory,’ the fourth episode in Fosse/Verdon focuses on 1973, that grand year when Bob Fosse had the triple grand slam achievement of winning the Oscar, the Tony, and the Emmy all on the same year. (His Oscar win was an upset over Francis Ford Coppola, who was favored to win for ‘The Godfather’) But this episode paints him as some kind of tortured artist. We see him tortured about how ‘Cabaret’ is being received, we see him tortured about ‘Pippin,’ which is now in rehearsals – I loved the process of how they got to the Finale. And I guess he was probably also tortured about something in ‘Liza With A Z,’ though they only show the show in a monitor. I wish the show was more abotu the process – could you imagine if this was a Matthew Weiner show? We would have a whole episode on ‘Corner Of The Sky’ alone. But I get it, though. This isn’t the kind of show, and we do need to see the story move forward.
But what we have here is pretty engrossing. And whenever Michele Williams as Gwen comes on, I perk up. I love her intimate scenes with Joan Simon (who would die the same year from bone cancer) and I love the foreshadowing of Gwen seeing Ann Reinking in rehearsals, making a comment about her being so good she doesn’t need to bed Fosse to get a solo. But Fosse’s #metoo moments are really hard to watch in 2019 lens, although I am sure that happened all the time in 1973 and people did not wince.
On the third episode of Fosse/Verdon (‘Me and My Baby’) we learn more about Gwen Verdon. But let me just say again and again and again that Michele Williams is really nailing her interpretation of the character of Verdon. I know that the two ladies do not really look alike, but by God Williams really got the essence of Gwen Verdon and her performance makes the story richer, and in this episode, it was so vital and is responsible for the success. We get to know Verdon’s back story, how she overcame physical liabilities to be the dancer that she became. It also touched upon her being raped by a Hollywood Reporter writer, and how she bore a child that she later gave up to her parents. All of that interspersed with her marital problems with Bob Fosse made the woman fuller before my eyes. I have read these stories before, but to see it on screen surely gave it a very different impact. We understand why she was so overprotective of her daughter – we understand perhaps why she held on to Fosse so much, how their tortured relationship endured despite all their problems. I love the series, and by the end when we see her triumph in ‘Can Can’ we are buoyed by the success – it made her journey deeper, and more rewarding.
Fosse was so tortured by the editing of the film ‘Cabaret’ that he really needed Verdon’s ‘take’ on what to do. It’s interesting to note him criticizing ‘Two Ladies,’ as I had also read that he hated Joel Grey and wanted all the Emcee’s scenes cut – Grey apparently intervened with producers and got his scenes reinstated. i wonder if we will see that in the series.
Do we really need ‘Fosse/Verdon’ in our lives? Should this television series exist? We already have the film ‘All That Jazz’ and Fosse himself envisioned that film to be the representation of his legacy. But I knew I was going to watch this show anyway, and I will be excited about it, because I am a show queen, and this is what show queens live for.
And the first two episodes are certainly rewarding. On the first, we get to see intricacies in how Fosse shot ‘Hey Big Spender’ in the film version of ‘Sweet Charity.’ And on the second episode, we see how they got to create ‘Who’s Got The Pain’ from ‘Damn Yankees.’ And the one thing that is constant in those two scenes – Gwen Verdon. We get to see that she is just as responsible for Fosse’s artistry as he is. He has his own vision, of course, but she helped make it come to life.
And Michele Williams is fantastic as Gwen Verdon. For some reason, she nails her, without making it look like she is cartooning her. We get the essence of the woman so authentically I sometimes forget that this is a woman playing her character. I had to get used to Sam Rockwell as Fosse, though, and that’s probably because Roy Scheider’s performance in the film is so ingrained in my brain. By the second episode, I warmed up to Rockwell, and I am pretty sure as the series goes on, I will be on board.