Tony-winning choreographer, actress and Bob Fosse collaborator Ann Reinking dies at the age of 71

NEW YORK – Ann Reinking, the Tony Award-winning choreographer, actress and Bob Fosse collaborator who has spread a cool, muscular hybrid of jazz and burlesque movement to Broadway and beyond, has passed away. She was 71.

Reinking died on Saturday while visiting family in Seattle, her manager, Lee Gross, said. No cause of death has been disclosed.

Testimonials came from the Broadway community, including Tony Yazbeck, who called her “an absolute inspiration,” and Leslie Odom, Jr., thanking Reinking for his mentorship: “She honored the call to be real. RIP to a legend.” Bernadette Peters said on Twitter that her heart was broken and Billy Eichner said she was “one of the most enchanting people I have ever seen onstage. A special genius. RIP.”

Trained as a ballet dancer, Reinking was known for her daring dance style, epitomized by her work in the revival of the Kander and Ebb musical “Chicago,” complete with fishnet stockings, chair dances and plenty of pelvic thrusts.

Reinking co-starred with Roxie Hart alongside Velma from Bebe Neuwirth and created the choreography ‘in the style of Bob Fosse’, the show’s original director and choreographer who died in 1987. She and Fosse worked together for 15 years and she was his too. lover for some of them.

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Her work on “Chicago” earned her Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards in 1997. Reinking has replicated his choreography in productions around the world – England, Australia, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands and elsewhere. She was played by Margaret Qualley in the recent FX series “Fosse / Verdon.”

The revival of the musical was first done in a concert version on City Center’s “Encores” series in 1996 and then moved to Broadway, where in 2011 it became the second longest-running show in Broadway history.

“You know how sometimes you hear that a woman is in labor and 10 minutes later she has this beautiful baby? You couldn’t believe it took shape so beautifully,” she told The Associated Press in 2011 of the early days of the revival. .

In 1998 she co-directed “Fosse”, a tribute to the man who had the greatest influence, both professionally and personally, on her life. He once called her ‘one of the best dancers in the jazz modern idiom’.

Her film credits include “Annie” (1982), “Movie, Movie” (1978) and the documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom” (2005), which portrayed Reinking as a New York City kids ballroom dance competition judge.

Reinking’s career began in Seattle, where she grew up. At first she wanted to be a ballet dancer, “like all girls,” she said. As a student, she won a scholarship in San Francisco with the Joffrey Ballet, but many of the out-of-hours improvisations simply sang and didn’t dance.

Robert Joffrey said that with her outgoing personality and other skills, she should pursue musical theater. “I waited for tables to save enough money to get here,” she said of New York City, arriving with a return ticket back to Seattle and $ 500. She didn’t need the return trip.

“You wouldn’t go into this if you had a guarantee. People who come in here have a certain sense of the high stakes,” she said. “You need the break and if you have it, you better be ready.”

Reinking’s break was spread over several shows. She starred in Broadway’s “Coco” ensemble, starring Katharine Hepburn as Coco Chanel in 1969, and starred in the chorus of “Pippin” in 1972, chosen by the director and choreographer, Fosse. The ensemble was so small – there were only eight – that the dancers were really seen.

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Choreographer Pat Birch was the one who noticed, and in 1974 put her in Over Here, a World War II musical starring two of the three Andrews Sisters and another unknown, John Travolta.

It led to a lead role in “Goodtime Charley”, a musical about Joan of Arc opposite Joel Gray. The musical was not a success, but theatergoers did watch Reinking as the lead artist and not just as a member of the choir.

Her other big break, she said, was in “Dancin ‘” in 1978, “because I realized you had to be in an original role and that show has to be a hit.” The music-and-dance revue directed and choreographed by Fosse has run for more than three years and earned her a Tony nomination in 1978.

But it was her work on the revival of “Chicago” where Reinking received most of the attention. The original, a dark indictment of celebrities and hucksterism, opened in the summer of 1975 and lasted for approximately 900 performances. While not in the opening night cast, Reinking eventually slipped into the role of Roxie Hart, taking over the role of Gwen Verdon, Fosse’s third wife and dancing alter ego. In the 1996 revival, which is still on Broadway, Reinking retained the role of Hart opposite Gray and Neuwirth.

Reinking also gained experience – and stayed in shape – replacing stars on hit shows: Donna McKechnie in “A Chorus Line”; Gwen Verdon in Fosse’s original “Chicago”; and Debbie Allen in the 1986 revival of “Sweet Charity”.

And she embarked on an eclectic film career – from playing Roy Scheider’s lover in Fosse’s semi-autobiographical 1979 film ‘All That Jazz’ to the film version of ‘Annie’ to Blake Edwards’ ‘Micki and Maude’.

She also created dances for a revival of “Pal Joey” at Chicago’s Goodman Theater and a musical about first lady Eleanor Roosevelt called “Eleanor.” She was on the national tour of “Bye Bye Birdie” opposite Tommy Tune.

After ‘Eleanor’, the offer to choreograph ‘kept falling in my lap,’ said Reinking. She created dances for a pre-Encores “Chicago” in Long Beach, California, with Neuwirth and Juliet Prowse.

In one of the more crappy moments in her career, Reinking was asked to sing and perform Phil Collins’ Oscar nominated song “Against All Odds” on the 1985 broadcast. With her lips synchronized as she danced in a bombastic , cheap rendition marred by the fog.

In recent years she has choreographed “The Look of Love” on Broadway and the Roger Rees-directed off-Broadway “Here Lies Jenny” (2004), starring Neuwirth. In 2011 she helped choreograph “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin” on Broadway.

Reinking also produced a documentary called “In My Hands,” about working with children of Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder of the connective tissue that often leaves its victims with disproportionately long limbs. She also produced the movie “Two Worlds, One Planet”, about “high functioning” autism.

Reinking’s first three marriages ended in divorce. Since 1994 she was married to Peter Talbert. She is also survived by a son, Christopher, who has been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome and autism.

“If there is a heaven I think Bob can look down and be satisfied. He really had an exponential effect on the next generation of choreographers and dancers,” Reinking once said.

“He demanded the best of you and you wanted to give it. So you got better. All the great directors – but they do it – make you want to be good. I hope I do. It’s like you’re a parent,” a psychiatrist, a disciplinarian and a friend. You really need to know when to hold them and when to show them. “

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