BY BILLY SUTER
AFTER playing Hugh Jackman’s wife in The Greatest Showman, Michelle Williams, widow of the late Brokeback Mountain star Heath Ledger, is now poised to portray legendary Broadway and screen star Gwen Verdon, the wife of iconic choreographer Bob Fosse, in a new TV series.
The show, Fosse/Verdon, is scheduled to premiere on the FX network in the US on April 9, and co-stars Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell as Bob Fosse, the director-choreographer of the films Cabaret, Sweet Charity and the semi-autobiographical All That Jazz.
After first working in film, perhaps most notably dancing in 1953’s Kate Me Kate, Fosse choreographed the 1954 stage musical The Pyjama Game. He met rising star Gwen Verdon when he choreographed her in 1955’s Damn Yankees, and they married five years later.
Wikipedia reports that, for her work in Damn Yankees, Verdon won her first Tony Award for best actress. In 1957, Fosse choreographed New Girl in Town and that led to Verdon receiving her second Tony as lead actress. Verdon also won Tony Awards for her roles in Can-Can and Redhead. She also originated starring roles in Sweet Charity and Chicago, both directed and choreographed by Fosse.
Fosse, who also choreographed 1961’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and 1973’s Pippin, died at the age of 60 in 1987.
He won a record eight Broadway Tony Awards for choreography, as well as one for direction. Fosse was also was nominated for four Oscars, winning one for directing Cabaret.
The trailers for Fosse/Verdon are impressive and hopes are high for the series to be a success as it is created by some of the top talents around today.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the stage musical Hamilton and starred in the recent movie Mary Poppins Returns, is an executive producer, while Steven Levenson, who wrote the hit stage musical Dear Evan Hanson, wrote the series pilot.
The series features Laura Osnes as Sweet Charity star Shirley MacLaine, Ethan Slater as Cabaret Oscar-winner Joel Grey, Ahmad Simmons as All That Jazz star Ben Vereen, Kelli Barrett as Cabaret star Liza Minnelli ,Bianca Marroquin as Chita Rivera and Norbert Leo Butz as Paddy Chayefsky.
Fosse/Verdon is choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, who has taken Tony Awards for 2008’s In the Heights, 2016’s Hamilton and 2017’s Bandstand. He also choreographed the Broadway shows 9 to 5 and Bring It On: The Musical, as well as the 2016 revival of Cats.
Talking of Cats, the film version directed by Tom Hooper is scheduled for global release on December 20 this year.
Playbill has reported that the cast includes Dreamgirls Oscar-winner and former American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella the Glamour Cat, who sings the show’s hit song, Memory.
Grammy-winning pop star Taylor Swift has been cast as Bombalurina, Sir Ian McKellen is Gus the Theatre Cat, and James Corden, star of the film version of Into the Woods (he was the baker), has been cast as Bustopher Jones.
Dame Judi Dench will play Old Deuteronomy, Australian blonde Rebel Wilson has been cast as Jennyanydots and pop star Jason Derulo is to play Rum Tum Tugger. Rovert Fairchild is portraying Munkustrap, Mette Towley is Jemima, Idris Elba is Macavity, and Royal Ballet’s Francesca Hayward and Steven McRae are to play Victoria and Skimbleshanks.
For the film, Andrew Lloyd Webber has reportedly written a new song for Victoria, the graceful dancing white cat.