Gypsy Mimi Quillin rushed through the stage door at The Shubert Theater late for her performance in a benefit for American Dance Machine. Having come from an audition for the revival of Sweet Charity, the last person she expected to almost literally run into was Gwen Verdon. Though the two had never met, Verdon seemed to know about the young dancer. “There’s a step in the show you’re going to hate,” she commented without introduction. Leaning back further than Quillin thought possible, she demonstrated a position in Charity’s “The Rich Man’s Frug.” (The flexible thespian demonstrates this and other choreography enhancing the piece.)
Next day, Verdon showed up in Quillin’s dressing room with a slip of torn paper bearing a phone number for Bob Fosse. As if that weren’t enough, she instructed the aspirant exactly what to wear for her private try-out, i.e. how to please. Mimi Quillin does a terrific impression of Verdon peppering the show with illuminating wit. The great dancer (Fosse’s ex-wife) may have been unaware of her own humor, our author may be paraphrasing – regardless, deadpan delivery and spot on timing keeps one laughing.
Not only was she hired to perform, Quillin was asked to help Verdon and Fosse recreate original numbers (first time) and acted as Dance Captain (first time), garnering intimacy few have had over the course of three plus years with the show – on the west coast, Broadway and touring. She was in Washington, D.C. with the company when Fosse died. “Don’t treat them like steps,” Verdon instructed, “they’re like words in a script.” (Wait till you hear her thoughtful advice about getting a boob job.)
“Nothing in my performance past compares to dancing Bob Fosse choreography for Bob Fosse. It’s like pleasuring yourself,” Quillin tells us. (No, he didn’t make a pass at her.) Multidimensional portraits of both the Master and his Muse extend beyond the usual perspective. At one point, surrounded by acolytes, Fosse lead one of his bar games. “Draw your dream house and I’ll tell you what kind of person you are,” he challenged. In front of me, two leggy women nod knowingly to one another. This is the scoop.
Quillin shares both her own trial-by-fire experience and perceptive, bird’s eye view of the wry, loving, proprietary manner in which the couple still thought of one another. (When Fosse changes into his dance pants on stage, Verdon quietly reminds herself, “I gotta get him some new Jockeys.”)
Quillin’s piece is beautifully written on a personal, not anecdotal arc. The actress/author makes us feel sympathetically present at the time. Did I mention, you’ll laugh?
Direction by J.T. Waite is terrific; well paced and filled with visual variety, despite no scenery to speak of and not a single prop.
Bitten By A Zebra Photography
United Solo presents
Call Fosse At The Minskoff
Written and Performed by Mimi Quillin
Directed by J.T. Waite
410 West 42nd St.
In its 7th season, United Solo is the world’s largest solo theater festival. Performers from 18 countries, 23 states, and six continents will present their unique works between September 15 and November 20, 2016.
For the full calendar of performances, please visit www.unitedsolo.org/us/ufest