Mahaiwe Theater, Great Barrington, MA
Call Fosse at the Minskoff,
Written and Performed by Mimi Quillin
Directed by Michael Barresse. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
"I feel like a million bucks!"
Wanting something as much as eight year old Mimi does has a deep affect on a life. Asked in school where she would like to go on an airplane the Staten Island resident proclaims "Broadway!" And she really means it. Now, grown up and experienced she may be heading back in that direction, but first she has a story to tell. It's a true story though most of the names have been eliminated to protect the guilty. Her tale of a profound professional friendship with Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon during the staging of his 1985 revival of their show "Sweet Charity" is the core of this personal, spoken and danced monologue. In fact, it's a trip and a trip worth taking..
The desire to dance on Broadway is not unique. Probably millions of people suffer with it. In 1986 she won a role in Fosse's revival of "Charity" through the efforts of his wife and inspiration, Broadway and film star Gwen Verdon. Verdon saw great potential in the woman who auditioned for Fosse during an all male audition call (She snuck in and made an impression). Earning their trust and faith she moved up to become the company's Dance Captain, the person responsible for keeping the choreography intact during the show's run. In the course of things she was as close a part of the stars' lives as Fosse and Verdon were to each other. It is the story of the three years of their professional and personal lives that dominates this show. It is quite a tale she tells. It would be easy to doubt some of it except that she is so frank and honest about the quirks of her own life that makes the story of stars of the theatre that much easier to believe. Quillin is frank, talented and beautiful, all of which keeps the story real and fascinating.
Director Michael Barresse has placed Quillin on an almost bare stasge with a chair, a stool and a theatrical trunk allowing her all the space she requires to tell her story and dance as much of it as she needs. With superbly simple lighting designed by Lucas Pawelski and excellent sound designed by Megumi Katayama the show unrolls its fabric of truths, showcasing a career fraught with incident and leading to an acting career in the U.K. through a scholarship awarded her by Fosse himself. His death on opening night of the show in Washington, D.C., though not as moving as one might anticipate, leaaves her unexpectedly without two friends. Theater people often refer to their backstage associates as "family" and hers is torn apart by his departure. Even so, she is part of his legacy and she shares that with her audience by telling her story. It is very well written and very well told. This inside story is not like many you may encounter. It is a rare experience for an audience to be brought this close to theatrical greats through the working history of a bit player in their lives. This show is successful in its graceful execution. So pass the character shoes and take a stool if you can. And take note that non-Equity call can lead to a wonderful life, if you're lucky.
Call Fosse at the Minskoff played only two performances at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington and has moved on. Watch for it in the future. It's not going away.