Based on Sam Wasson’s biography of Bob Fosse, this miniseries ensures the famed choreographer/director shares the spotlight with his dancing partner, collaborator and third-wife Gwen Verdon. The shift in focus is immediately apparent with the change of the work’s title from page to screen. Yet it is Michelle Williams’ mesmerising performance that ensures Verdon’s contribution is impossible to overlook.
Starting and ending shortly before Fosse’s death, the series portrays the couple’s professional successes and personal failures from ‘Damn Yankees’ through to their final collaboration over thirty years later. In the interim, Verdon assists Fosse in the direction of his films Sweet Charity (1969), Cabaret (1972) and Lenny (1974), while pressuring him to fulfil their dream project, ‘Chicago’.
Yet the work that this series most recalls is Fosse’s semi-autobiographical film All that Jazz (1979), not only in style but also in its depiction of the lead character as an egotistical, pill-popping womaniser. Whereas Fosse had a certain affection for his subject, the makers of Fosse/Verdon show these traits in an unflattering light. Joe Gideon may have had a certain roguish quality, but the unfiltered Fosse is presented as a charmless, self-centred arse.
Though told in a mostly linear fashion, the series’ flashbacks and jumps forth are prefaced by such idiosyncratic titles as '267 Days Since Gwen Verdon’s Last Tony Award', 'Majorca: 3913 miles from home', and 'Washington DC: 8 minutes left'. Episodes providing a delightful peek behind the scenes of the team’s triumphs are among the series best. Whenever the story lags, as it almost fatally does in Episode 5, there is always Williams’ performance to savour.
Though Fosse did have an affair with Cabaret’s German translator, Verdon actually discovered him sleeping with two other German women.
The character of Ron, Gwen Verdon’s long-time boyfriend, is a composite based mainly on actor Jerry Lanning.
Biopic features scene recreations from Sweet Charity (1969), Cabaret (1972), Lenny (1974) and All That Jazz (1979)