Broadway Icon Ann Reinking Passes Away At 71

Ann Reinking in ‘All That Jazz’ (screen capture)

Tony Award-winning actress/dancer/choreographer Ann Reinking (Chicago, Fosse, Pippin, Sweet Charity, Over Here!) passed away Saturday night at the age of 71.

From Variety:

She is perhaps best known for playing Roxie Hart in 1977’s “Chicago,” replacing Gwen Verdon. She reprised the part when she returned for the 1996 revival of the famed production.

“The hope is that in rediscovering ‘Chicago,’ audiences will rediscover what theater was,” Reinking told The New York Times at the time of the show’s revival. “It was sophisticated, complicated, adult.”

Her work on the later “Chicago” ultimately earned her a Tony Award for best choreography.

Reinking was also the co-creator, co-director and co-choreographer for “Fosse,” a musical meant to showcase Fosse’s choreography. She created the project alongside Richard Maltby Jr. and Chet Walker. The musical was Reinking’s final bow on Broadway, as she served as a replacement ensemble member in 2001.

The Broadway revival of Chicago the Musical was an unexpected and thrilling part of my career on Broadway.

I had moved to Los Angeles to be with my husband Michael in 1996, thinking perhaps my dancing career was behind me. And then, on a whim, I went to an open call for replacements for Chicago the Musical in early 1998.

Over 300 dancers attended that call, and at the end of the day, I was one of ten left standing. Three days later, Ann and director Walter Bobbie were coming through LA and the ten of us were called back to show what we had to offer.

Four months later, I got a call asking me to join the national touring company that was playing in Los Angeles, and ultimately I was hired about a dozen times over the next 15 years to go into the Broadway and touring companies. Sometimes, it would be for a year, sometimes for a month as a temporary replacement.

And I know that was because of Ann. She trusted me over and over again to be a part of her thrilling choreography.

Imagine not only meeting one of your heroes but working with them. And learning from them. And dancing right alongside them.

Ann Reinking as Roxie Hart in the Broadway revival of Chicago (photo: Max Vadukul)

One of my most memorable times with Ann was during brushup rehearsals for the Broadway company’s second anniversary.

I vividly remember, and I’ve quoted her often, her saying that dance represents tradition – and that it’s our responsibility as dancers to pass steps and style on to the next generation.

The last time I saw Ann was during her run in FOSSE in the early 2000s. We chatted backstage in her dressing room after the performance. She was, of course, brilliant.

As we parted ways leaving the Broadhurst Theater, she asked in passing, “So, you’re in NYC for a while?” I said, “Yes.”

Of course, the next day, the casting folks called – per Ann’s request – and asked if I was available to go back into Chicago.

With Ann Reinking in 1998 celebrating the 2nd anniversary of CHICAGO on Broadway

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Annie.  For the inspiration, for the laughs, for the insight, and for your genius.

RIP Ann Reinking.

By the way, just to underscore how lucky I’ve been in my theater career, I’ve danced with all three of these great stars. Color me grateful.

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