cover image Fosse


Sam Wasson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $32 (736p) ISBN 978-0-547-55329-0

Bob Fosse, the legendary Broadway choreographer and director of the trendsetting movie antimusicals Cabaret and All That Jazz (which chronicled his life), is the glittering, neurotic soul of showbiz in this scintillating biography. Film scholar and critic Wasson (Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.) styles Fosse as a charismatic charmer, a relentless and endearing lady's man, a tyrant in the rehearsal studio, a prima donna in the director's chair, and a methamphetamine-addicted narcissist with a persistent death wish and simultaneous delusions of grandeur and worthlessness. Embedded within this exhilarating, appalling portrait is a revealing account of Fosse's dance innovations: the fluttering hands, wrist flicks, shoulder shrugs and other "isolations" of disarticulated body parts; the sleazy vaudevillian glamor inspired%E2%80%94and haunted%E2%80%94by his teenage years dancing at burlesque clubs; his vision of life as a cynical "performance of self." There's an enormous amount of scholarship here, yet the story never drags, so adroitly does he blend his material into a fluent narrative around evocative scenes where character emerges novelistically. Throughout, he spotlights vivid supporting sketches of celebrities from Fred Astaire (who "danced even when he stood still") to Liza Minnelli ("a strange, spastic show-biz animal"). Agent: David Halpern, the Robbins Office.(Nov.)