Tuesday, April 16, 2019

REVIEW: 'Fosse/Verdon' - Gwen Verdon Meets Bob Fosse and Their Creative Partnership Begins in 'Who's Got the Pain?'

FX's Fosse/Verdon - Episode 1.02 "Who's Got the Pain?"

Rising Broadway star Gwen Verdon meets ambitious young choreographer Bob Fosse. Their lives will never be the same.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of FX's Fosse/Verdon.

"Who's Got the Pain?" was written by Steven Levenson and directed by Thomas Kail

The season opened with lots of spectacle. It produced rousing musical numbers while showing the relationship between Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon at its most volatile. It was heading towards its breaking point. The follow-up to that moment is seen a little bit here with the two of them fighting and Gwen running back to her home in New York determined to never forgive Bob. The majority of this hour though is about how the two of them first met. It's so important to remember that Gwen Verdon won a Tony Award before she met Bob Fosse. The creative partnership between the two of them is so iconic that people can completely forget that. They both have these complicated lives apart from each other. It's important to analyze those details and how they contributed to the life they had and the legacies they carry afterwards. When Gwen meets Bob, she is already at the point in her career where she no longer has to audition. Writers and producers are creating roles just for her and pitching them to her to see if she will star in their projects. But she views her first meeting with Bob as an audition. He comes off as the power player making this huge decision. He doesn't have that power though. He could easily be fired from the project and replaced with the choreographer Gwen originally wanted for the job. He also just wants to see Gwen move up close to see how inspired he could be working with her. That is lost in translation a little bit. But the intensity between them cackles from that very first moment. They share such an extreme love of dance. They communicate on the same wave length. It's so intimate but so passionate as well. It's that way even when there is an entire company of dancers also performing on the stage. In those moments, it's still about the ways in which Bob and Gwen are communicating with each other. It's a fascinating way to frame things as well. They grow close because of their hard work on this musical. That extends offstage as well where they start having sex despite both being married to different people. The show is more interested in examining it from Bob's perspective because his wife is the one given a character arc here. Joan McCracken was a Broadway star as well. Gwen actually knows her work. She has seen her onstage. She wasn't familiar with Bob Fosse beyond his gimmicks at first. But all of this is a routine Joan has seen before. It's the same behavior that led to her falling in love with Bob and getting married. She understands him perfectly in that he is searching for a partner who can catapult him to fame. He wants to be revered in the same way as Gene Kelly. He couldn't go the distance as a dancer. The audience is aware that he will garner so much attention as a choreographer and director. At this moment though, it's all perceived as him attaching himself to a famous star in the hopes of becoming associated with their own brilliance. There was the full expectation that Joan would take him to the places he dreamed of going. And yes, that led to him getting a ton of work that was rewarding and infuriating at the same time. But during the final years of her life, Joan could no longer work because of her failing health. Bob labels her a dying woman even though the show points out she wouldn't die for several more years after Bob leaves her. She understands why he's doing this. Gwen understands it as well. She is in love with this man and sees this entire musical as a celebration for the work they created together. Sure, the producers and directors inputted their disruptive ideas from time to time. But this was the moment life changed for the two of them. They went all in on this relationship. And they would stay together for a long time. Gwen always saw their marriage as forever despite his affairs. She knew he would never leave her because he loved someone more. He was too obsessed with fame and appreciation. He got that through his work with her. On the beach though, he claims to be in love with the German translator which is the last straw for Gwen. That's what motivates her to leave. It's brutal and devastating in so many ways - with Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell continuing to do stellar work.