"Look what just blew in from Winnetka!" That's the opening line for the dance number "Big Noise From Winnetka," featured in the current revival of Bob Fosse's Dancin'. What follows is an antics-filled, high-energy trio, portraying three suburbanites in the big city for the day. Watch the explosive dance number above—featuring cast members Tony d’Alelio, Mattie Love, and Nando Morland—in an exclusive performance filmed by Playbill.
"It's a typical Bob Fosse number. No one would think that, but he had an incredible sense of humor," says director Wayne Cilento.
Bob Fosse's Dancin' opened March 19 at the Music Box Theatre. It carefully reconstructs original choreography from the 1978 production of Dancin' while reinventing the show as a whole for modern audiences. Along with Cilento's direction and musical staging, reproducing Fosse's choreography is by Christine Colby Jacques with associate direction and additional choreographic reconstruction by Corinne McFadden Herrera and assistant musical staging and additional choreographic reconstruction by Lauren Cannon.
Though now a Tony-winning choreographer, Cilento started as a dancer. He grew up watching American Bandstand and MGM movie musicals starring Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. After an invitation from a neighborhood girl to attend dance class at age 9 or 10, he was hooked. Although for a brief time, he studied pharmacy in junior college, he soon realized he was a dancer. "I feel I'm the most me when I dance," he says.
Cilento originated the role of Mike ("I Can Do That") in A Chorus Line and performed in the original 1978 production of Dancin'. In fact, "Big Noise From Winnetka" was one of his numbers—he was in the center, flanked by two women. Cilento has flipped that makeup for the revival, placing Mattie Love in the center (he calls her "the spitfire in the middle") with Tony d’Alelio and Nando Morland at her sides.
"[Fosse] love trios and duets," says Cilento, noting that a placement in a trio or a duet meant just as much as "getting a solo." (Recall the "Manson Trio" from Pippin or "You've Got the Pain" from Damn Yankess, which Fosse himself danced with wife Gwen Verdon.) "He loves the energy where people are bouncing off of each other."
Bringing Dancin' back to life has been an intense labor, clearly, of love. There were several weeks-long reconstruction periods with smaller groups of dancers, putting the numbers back together. Then there were rehearsal periods teaching the numbers to the cast. But teaching Fosse choreography is more than teaching dance steps, Cilento explains. Motivations for movement have to come from within. "Everything he does has some sort of a meeting, or he's making some sort of a statement, or he's being sarcastic in a very intelligent way. It's a very complicated challenge to take on."
For "Big Noise From Winnetka" the choreography is exactly as it was in the original, but there's room for each dancer to make it their own, to give the steps an inner life. Says Cilento: "There are moments of time where you need to fill it in with your personality. And these three are hysterical every day. When I was watching it every show, I would look up and there would be something else going on, which makes me believe that they're thinking about it, and they're coming up with stuff to kind of like play around. And that's what the piece is about—bouncing off of each other, putting yourself in a situation, and executing it through dance. You're telling a story."