BWW Reviews: FOSSE by Sam Wasson

Related: Bob Fosse, Sam Wasson, Musicals, Broadway

I figure I met Bob Fosse around page 433 of Sam Wasson's new biography, Fosse. I was a grad student, researching the development of the director-choreographer. I wrote to a number of men, requesting interviews, but only Fosse responded in the affirmative. So one spring day I found myself sitting in his apartment on West 58th Street. It was the week before the Tony Awards, when Chicago would be all but forgotten in the wake of the A Chorus Line juggernaut. I don't remember much of what we discussed, but despite the famous ego on display, I was surprised he took the time to meet with me.

Wasson's massive 723-page dissection of one of the premiere talents of musical theatre is excessive, entertaining and exhausting. The length (of which 130 pages is devoted to bibliography and footnotes) is only the most obvious reason. Mostly, it's the subject, Fosse himself, who could easily be described in the same way.

It's no accident that Wasson peppers his book with psychological explanations for Fosse's addictions: sex, prescription and illegal drugs, alcohol, smoking, work. It's not fair or accurate to simply write off those issues as the embodiment of an artist's insecurities. There was much more at work here, much of it dark and disturbing. And that's what makes this such a compelling read.

Would Fosse have benefitted from present-day psychotherapy? It's hard to say. His demons appeared at an early age and he wasn't always willing to let go of them. But what struck me most was his profound loneliness.

He would call members of his dance corps in the middle of the night, just to talk, to convince them to come to his hotel room or apartment. And while sex was the ultimate result, it was not the goal: the goal was to assuage the loneliness that weighs so heavily in the night.

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Victoria Noe Victoria Noe has been a writer most of her life, but didn?t admit it until 2009. After earning a Masters from the University of Iowa in Speech and Dramatic Art, she moved to Chicago, where she worked professionally as a stage manager, director and administrator in addition to being a founding board member of the League of Chicago Theatres. She was a professional fundraiser, raising money for arts, educational and AIDS service organizations, and an award-winning sales consultant of children?s books. She also trained hundreds of people around the country in marketing, event planning and grant writing.

But after a concussion impacted her ability to continue in sales, she switched gears to keep a promise to a friend to write a book. Her freelance articles have appeared in Windy City Times, Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post. The first three books in a series on the experience of grieving the death of a friend were published in 2013.

A native St. Louisan, she?s a lifelong Cardinals fan and will gladly take on any comers in musical theatre trivia.

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