BICK GOSS, Dancer, Director, Choreographer and New York's MUSICAL MONDAYS THEATRE LAB Founder and Artistic Director, Dies at 75
Richard "Bick" Goss, a noted New York City-based theater director and choreographer, former Bob Fosse dancer, and the Founder and Co-Artistic Director (with Frank Evans) of the non-profit musical theater development organization, Musical Mondays Theatre Lab, died this past Saturday, August 3, from complications related to Parkinson's Disease, which Mr. Goss had battled for more than five years. He was 75 years old.
"Everyone connected with Musical Mondays Theatre Lab, and I'm sure all of Bick's family, friends and colleagues, are shocked and deeply saddened at Bick's passing," said Musical Mondays Theatre Lab Board President Stephen Hanks. "When it came to musical theater, Bick was a visionary and a champion and he brought incredible energy and talent to every project with which he was involved. Musical Mondays will greatly miss his insightful and perceptive artistic leadership, but we will continue the organization's work in his memory and grow even stronger. On a personal note, in the 10 years I knew Bick he became a very close personal friend and mentor and I will miss him deeply. He loved life and people and was an absolute joy to be around."
Bick Goss was born Richard Gosso on February 10, 1938 in San Francisco, CA; son of Luigi Gonsaga (a certified public accountant) and Erma Ruthlee (a singer; maiden name, Stewart) Gosso. Goss began his performing career almost 50 years ago as a Bob Fosse dancer, appearing in the original companies of Little Me, Sweet Charity, Dancin' (National Tour, 1979) and Chicago. After moving to New York from the West Coast in the early 1960s, he made his Broadway debut in 1965 as a Gypsy dancer in Bajour at the Shubert Theatre. The following year, Goss appeared in the original Broadway production of It's a Bird . . . It's a Plane . . . It's Superman. Four years later, Goss made his film debut as a dancer in the 1969 movie version of the musical Sweet Charity. Between 1968-72, Goss also appeared as a dancer in The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS.
During his theater career, Goss worked with legends Carol Burnett, Gene Kelly, Billy Crystal, Harold Prince, Bob Fosse, and Gwen Verdon, who he considered the most interesting talent he ever met. "Gwen and I became friends and worked together on a few shows, and to watch her in rehearsal and on stage was electrifying.
"Gwen knew what to do with the character, she knew what to do with her body, and she knew what to do with her emotions. She made good choices. She was, I think, one of the most undervalued performers America ever had. Her stage career was great, but she waited until late in life to start doing film and television, and if she'd started earlier she'd be even better remembered today."
Goss seamlessly transitioned from his career as a dancer to becoming an accomplished director and choreographer, working extensively in the San Francisco Bay Area. In New York, Bick worked with legendary choreographer Agnes deMille, recreating her dances from Brigadoon for The American Dance Machine, which played 199 performances at the Century Theatre at 227 West 46th Street, now the home of Scientology. In 2002, Goss directed the Off-Broadway drama, Roman Nights, a two character play about the relationship of Anna Magnani and Tennessee Williams at the Daryl Roth 2 Theatre. In 2007, Goss directed the musical War Brides, lyrics by his producing partner Frank Evans, book by Ron Sproat and music by Christopher Berg, which won two honorable mentions at the NYMF Awards.
Goss always considered his directing and choreography work in the 1992 musical revue, Cole!, to be the greatest triumph of his directing career. The show earned Bick the Bay Area Critics Circle Award for direction and choreography of the San Jose Repertory production of the musical based on the work of composer Cole Porter. The show had an 18-month run in San Francisco.
Bick Goss was always driven to help develop new musicals and in 1999, he founded the non-profit Musical Mondays Theatre Lab at the Century Center for the Performing Arts. "I'm very concerned about the state of musical theatre today," Goss explained. "It's turning into opera and there are too many revivals."
About to begin it's 14th season presenting readings of four to five new musicals per year, MMTL currently presents previews at the Snapple Theater Center, where the record breaking run of The Fantasticks currently plays. Writers whose early work debuted at Musical Mondays include Tony Winners Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (Avenue Q), Tony and Pulitzer Prize Winners Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt when their show Next to Normal was still entitled Feeling Electric, Drama Desk nominee Eric Weinberger and Kleban Prize Winner Beth Falcone (Wanda's World,), Outer Critics Award Winner Andy Monroe (The Kid). Performers in both readings and table readings have included Norbert Leo Butz, Rebecca Luker, Liz Larsen, Sal Viviano, Tovah Feldshuh, Jan Maxwell and Tammy Grimes. Musical Mondays also presented a number of Master Classes including one led by Gwen Verdon, one of the Broadway legend's last public appearances. (Please click on Page 2 below to continue.)
On September 19, 2011, Musical Mondays Theatre Lab saluted its founder with a gala celebration and presented Goss with a "Lifetime Achievement Award." (Photo left). The award read: "Presented [to Richard "Bick" Goss] in recognition of five decades of excellence as a producer, director, actor, dancer and choreographer, both on and off-Broadway and in regional theater. Bick's creation of Musical Mondays Theatre Lab in 1999 and his efforts to create, nurture and support new works have distinguished him as a musical theater development visionary. A cast of thousands will forever regard Bick as a mentor, teacher, colleague and friend."
Bick is survived by his brothers, Blaine and Dean Goss, and his cousin, LaRue Larussa, as well as six nieces and nephews. A memorial service in Bick's honor is being planned for a later date and location to be announced.