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May 11 2019

Fosse/Verdon - Ep.5: "Where Am I Going?"

previously onFosse/Verdon

byDancin' Dan

Figures that the episode randomly assigned to the resident dance expert of Team Experience is the only episode ofFosse/Verdonso far that hasn't had even the tiniest bit of dancing in it.I seem to be enjoying the show more than some of the rest of the team,and i've particularly marveled at the series' recreations of some of Fosse's best known pieces,some of which I have had the good fortune to dance myself.One of the choreographers who taught me told our ensemble that most of Fosse's choreography is defined by tension - you must always be holding tension in your body somewhere in order to make it look and feel right.To that end,when we were dancing movements that were supposed to be more fluid,she told us to imagine that we were dancing through peanut butter.It's an image that I now always associate with Fosse's work,and I found it particularly apt for this episode.Even though there's no dancing,there's plenty of tension.Every character looks like they're moving through peanut butter,pushing and straining to get what they want.

Bob Fosse had his unprecedented year of glory,and ended up in the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic for his troubles...

But it's hard to keep him down for long,and against his doctors' recommendations (and with an assist from Gwen),he checked himself out of the clinic after six days.They also recommended he take a year off work,but those who know him best know that he is not going to be able to "rest"for anything close to a year.Indeed,he started seeing Ann after only a few weeks after his stay at the Clinic,and a couple of months later,he has his daughter making sure a pack of cigarettes is ready and waiting for him in every room of their Hamptons rental.

He also has his next project lined up: A film version of the stage playLenny,about controversial stand-up comic Lenny Bruce,to star Dustin Hoffman.He's nervous about it,not wanting to be known as "the one guy who couldn't get a performance out of Dustin Hoffman,"although Paddy and Neil poo-poo this idea.He had planned to shoot on stages in New York,but has changed his mind and now wants to shoot on location in Florida.Out of desperation,Gwen has also committed him to direct and choreograph her in their long-standing dream project ofChicagoon Broadway,and the producing team has found a theater - the same theater of past Fosse/Verdon triumphs asDamn Yankees,New Girl in Town,andRedhead… each of which won Verdon a Tony.When he isn't responsive to her alone,she tries to get the whole room on her side with a hard sell for her project: "It's about what happens when no one even bothers fighting anymore,when people don't even care about the truth,when all they care about is what sells.When everything - politics,the news,life and death - is all just entertainment."Just as timely now as it was then,if not more so!

Unfortunately for Gwen,Bob is done with "bullshit musical comedies",and this prompts an outburst from Gwen,telling Ann just what it means to be in a relationship with Bob Fosse: That Bob gets to do whatever he wants whenever he wants,with whomever he wants,because it's for his art.Michelle Williams is on fire in this scene,but it's not until her next scene,when she sings the titular song at Neil's request,that it makes its full impact: This isn't just about Bob.It's about every narcissistic creative genius MAN who society allows to get away with this behavior,while similarly talented women have to beg and scrape in order to barely survive being forgotten.Recriminatingly singing the song's last lines ("Looking inside me,what do I see?/Anger and hope and doubt - what am I all about?/Where am I going?You tell me") directly at Bob,Gwen makes her case: He may not needChicago,but she does,and they both know she deserves it.And she deserves to do it with him.Gwen continues to press Bob: She may not be able to dance it in two years,and he may not be alive in two years,but they're both alive and able to do it now.The royalties from the show would take care of Nicole for life,and they both had a dear friend die young leaving two girls with only one parent.Finally she plays her trump card: She can just ask Hal Prince to do it.He's on a hot streak,Kander and Ebb already mentioned him as a possibility,he's very talented… and suddenly,Bob's back on board,and back in bed with Gwen.

It's worth pointing out that Gwen and Bob were still married at this point,even though they were both living with other people.Pointedly,when Gwen apologizes to Ann the next morning,it is for what she said about Bob,not for having slept with him.Ann appreciated the honesty of Gwen's outburst,and Gwen gives her some more honesty: She knows Bob is serious about Ann because he isn't trying to protect Nicole from her.Ann knows that her relationship with Bob isn't going to last because she can't keep looking over her shoulder,and bristles when Gwen tells her that part of the job of being with Bob is to keep him alive.But Gwen tells her that it's worth it,because he will give Ann what he gave her: Lola.Charity.Roxie.Perversely,this turns out to be true,as Ann will eventually play the lead inSweet Charityin a 1986 revival,and becomes Gwen's replacement inChicago,before later reprising the role in a production she choreographed "in the style of Bob Fosse"that is still running on Broadway.

Bob confesses to Paddy that he NEEDS to doLennybecause "everyone"thinks thatCabaretwas a one-off and that all he can do is flash,and he needs to something without all the singing and dancing "tricks"to prove them wrong,to prove that he has "something to say."Paddy rightly asks who,exactly,it is that thinks that,but Bob can only repeat the same word.Everyone.Bob will always feel that he has something to prove.He will always believe that he can do it all.But he can't,and the women in his life are left to pick up the pieces.Gwen has resigned herself to this even if she hates it,but Ann hasn't yet.The great strength of this episode is that it lays its characters bare,puts their wants and beliefs out into the open and lets them bounce off of each other.And it ends back where the series started: With Bob working as hard as he can until his body quits.The years and the projects may be different,but Bob Fosse is going to the exact same place.And this time,he may not have as strong a safety net.

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Reader Comments (6)

Emmy nominations are guaranteed for Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell.It took me a bit to get into this miniseries but now I am absolutely loving it.Really impressed with Butz and Qualley as well.But it is the Michelle Williams show all the way - what a performance!

May 11,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Michelle Williams continues to astound me each episode.I still hope the Emmy goes to Amy Adams though.

May 11,2019 | Unregistered CommenterFadhil

Nathaniel are you sitting down?

May 11,2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

IMO.this was the best episode of the series so far.

May 11,2019 | Unregistered Commenterrdf

How could Michelle Williams keep outdoing herself every week

May 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterIBEATMERYL

Michelle Williams is the best reason to watch the series

May 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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