The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department salutes Bob Fosse ‘HDR ’73 on the anniversary of his birth. The famed Chicago-born director-choreographer received an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Columbia College at the college’s commencement ceremony in 1973, the same year he made history by becoming the only director to win the Tony, Oscar, and Emmy awards for directing in the same year.
In Chicago, the strip of Paulina Street near Montrose, near Fosse’s birthplace, is designated as Bob Fosse Way in his honor. So is the block of Monroe Street between State Street and Wabash Avenue, site of the CIBC Theatre (formerly the Shubert Theatre), where several touring productions of Fosse’s musical Chicago have played.
(Quoting from The Verdon Fosse Legacy LLC ): Robert Louis Fosse was born on June 23 1927, in Chicago. Growing up in Chicago, young Bob Fosse was obsessed with Fred Astaire, the king of Hollywood’s Golden Age of movie musicals. As a boy Fosse would watch his famous films and try to imitate not only Astaire’s tapping feet, but also his debonair style and enchanting charm. At age 25, Fosse landed his own contract with Hollywood’s MGM studios as a dancer in movies such as Kiss Me Kate, Give a Girl a Break, and The Affairs of Dobie Gillis. One day, Astaire bumped into Fosse while on the MGM set. Astaire politely introduced himself and, before walking away, casually kicked a nail that was lying on the ground, causing it to ricochet in an intricate pattern that simply mesmerized Fosse. After Astaire left, Fosse recovered that nail and worked for hours to reenact its choreography—with the same ease and grace of Astaire.
But Bob Fosse certainly didn’t always stand in the shadows of Fred Astaire; he went on to revolutionize American theatre dance. His blend of awesome sensuality, clever humor, cinematic insight, popular references, and a hint of cynicism made musical theatre contemporary, consumable, and controversial. Fosse was one of the greatest dance visionaries of the 20th century. He directed and choreographed over twenty-three films and Broadway musicals and won four Oscars and eight Tony Awards (more than any other choreographer). Additionally, Fosse is the only person ever to have won the “Triple Crown:” a Tony for Pippin, an Oscar for Cabaret, and an Emmy for Liza with a ‘Z’—all in 1973.
Fosse’s innovative, internalized, character-driven style helped define a new vernacular in the art of American Musical Theatre, making “Fosse” a renowned genre of dance all its own. Bob Fosse’s legacy lives on onstage, in pop culture references and inspiration, and through The Verdon Fosse Legacy LLC.