Fosse/Verdon, airing Tuesdays at 10pm EST on FX, is not made for a casual viewer. It is made for hardcore musical theater and “SHOWBIZ!” lovers. A casual viewer will turn it on and be incredibly confused, as it was also made by hardcore musical theater fans. Thomas Kail and Steven Levenson developed the series, with the former being the Tony Award-winning director of Hamilton and the latter being the Tony Award-winning writer of Dear Evan Hansen. You can tell immediately that this was made for the people who have Tony parties, who dissect Broadway cast albums from years ago with friends, and who have a favorite Sondheim (for those playing along at home, mine is Company).
For me, as someone who fulfills all the requirements to enjoy this show, I am immediately hooked, even with a structure that is infuriatingly all over the place.
The show follows the titular Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, the married couple and musical theater royalty, as the slowly turn into the icons they will become. In the pilot, we cover the making of the film, Sweet Charity, the box office flop it quickly turns out to be, and the subsequent making of Cabaret. All while we are jumping in and out of these timelines, we keep going back to this framing device of a premiere in Washington D.C. that we don’t know anything about, which is stressful, confusing, and I have no clue how a casual viewer would be able to follow these narratives without an inherent knowledge of Fosse, Verdon, and their works beforehand.
While the narrative structure is frustrating, it’s worth it to see this legendary choreographer being a complete and total rear end of a human. Bob Fosse is, arguably, the greatest director/choreographer this world has ever seen. Yet, he’s a gross person. Chain smoking mixed with extramarital affairs, overall rudeness, and a Jesus-complex shows that his work might be stunning, but his human persona is rather insufferable. Sam Rockwell, just from this initial pilot, is giving us a wonderful performance already. He’s portraying Fosse with more variation and more depth compared to the usual “I’m a flawed white male artist who struggles through life.”
Michelle Williams, playing Gwen Verdon, is already perfection. The best part of this series thus far, next to the musical numbers (of course), is her portrayal of Gwen and how we are peeling back to curtain to see how much of Fosse’s work is owed to Miss Verdon’s keen eye and dynamite attention to detail. The joke on “Gay Twitter” has been that it should be renamed Verdon/Fosse, and I approve.
I’ll be interested to see if the framing device makes sense as the show progresses, but right now, we have a solid bio-series about two legends (with one getting her full due far after she deserved it), highlighting some of the best pieces of art ever (Kelli Barrett as Liza Minnelli singing the title song from Cabaret is actual perfection and available for purchase of streaming on all major platforms, get into it). This was made for musical theater fans, by musical theater fans, and I couldn’t feel more willkommen.