Ann Reinking, Dancer-Turned-Tony-Winning-Choreographer and Fosse Muse, Dies at 71

Obituaries   Ann Reinking, Dancer-Turned-Tony-Winning-Choreographer and Fosse Muse, Dies at 71
 
Ms. Reinking won Tony and Olivier Awards for choreographing the revival of Chicago and played Roxie Hart in both the original and long-running Broadway productions.
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Ann Reinking, who helped preserve Fosse’s legacy and signature choreographic style—including through choreographing and starring in the long-running revival of Chicago—has died at the age of 71. Her death was confirmed to Variety by sister-in-law Dahrla King.

Ms. Reinking won Tony and Olivier Awards for choreographing the revival of Chicago (credited as “in the style of Bob Fosse”), which opened on Broadway and in the West End in 1996 and ’97, respectively. She also starred as Roxie Hart in the former, having previously played the role in the ‘70s as part of the closing company of the original production.

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Ann Reinking as Roxie Hart Max Vadukul

Born November 10, 1949, in Seattle, Washington, Ms. Reinking studied ballet before moving to New York City at 18. A year later, she made her Broadway debut in Cabaret. She appeared in the ensembles of Coco and Wild and Wonderful before landing a role in the Stephen Schwartz musical Pippin. It was on that show that she met Fosse, working closely with him and ultimately becoming a romantic partner for six years after his separation from Verdon (though the two remained married).

The spotlight followed, with a breakout role in Over Here! and her first Tony nomination for playing Joan of Arc in Goodtime Charley. In a departure from her affiliation with Fosse, she stepped into the work of another famed director-choreographer of the time, Michael Bennett, to replace Donna McKechnie as Cassie in A Chorus Line. She returned to Fosse with her turn as Roxie in the original Chicago production and later in his revue Dancin’, for which she earned another Tony nod.

Though her romantic relationship with Fosse had ended, their artistic symbiosis never did, as Ms. Reinking eventually replaced Debbie Allen in the title role of the 1986 Sweet Charity revival.

She did not expect to return to the stage after that, but the allure of Fosse once again called when Ms. Reinking reprised the role of Roxie Hart for New York City Center’s Encores! production of Chicago. She had initially only signed on as choreographer to stage the Fosse numbers, but eventually agreed to star as well (alongside Bebe Neuwirth, Joel Grey, James Naughton, and Marcia Lewis). She and her co-stars all followed the production to Broadway, where it has continued to run up until the coronavirus shutdown.

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Ann Reinking and Bebe Neuwirth Dan Chavkin

Following the revival of Chicago, she celebrated Fosse’s work further in the Broadway revue named after him, conceiving, co-directing, and co-choreographing (using Fosse’s work) the production. She and Richard Maltby Jr. shared a Tony nomination for Best Direction of a Musical. Ms. Reinking stepped in for a few, brief engagements in 2001. The show marked her final appearance on Broadway, though she did co-create the 2003 Burt Bacharach and Hal David revue The Look of Love. She was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame last year.

On screen, Ms. Reinking is remembered for her semi-autobiographical role in the Fosse-directed All That Jazz as Katie Jagger—girlfriend to Joe Gideon. She also played Grace Farrell in the film adaptation of Annie and starred in the 1984 rom-com Micki & Maude.

She was recently depicted in the FX limited series Fosse/Verdon, as played by Margaret Qualley. In an interview with The New Yorker, Ms. Reinking shared skepticism of what she had seen of the docudrama, saying, "I know he has a reputation for being abusive, but he’s not. That’s the thing that bothers me...I have felt more uncomfortable with other people on a more sinister level, but there was nothing sinister with Bob."

Ms. Reinking is survived by her husband Peter Talbert and her son Christopher.