Skip to main content

Ann Reinking - An Obituary

Ann Reinking – Dancer, Choreographer, Actor

 

Born November 10, 1949: died December 12, 2020 

 

 Ann Reinking, who has died aged 71, was a dancer and choreographer who lit up the stage with unbridled sensuality. While forever be associated with seminal American choreographer Bob Fosse, Reinking brought her own style and personality to her uninhibited moves.

 

As a choreographer, she won a Tony award for her 1996 revival of Chicago, which she had first appeared in as a dancer almost twenty years earlier. With a nod to the show’s original director, Reinking’s work was described as ‘in the style of Bob Fosse’, as she picked up the Fosse mantle with a series of updated routines.

 

The connection continued with Fosse (1998), a revue of her former creative and romantic partner’s greatest hits. Reinking conceived, co-directed and co-choreographed the show, which won a Tony for best musical. Its West End transfer saw Reinking win an Olivier for best choreography. The show’s success was the pinnacle of a career that saw Reinking become a music theatre star at a time when stage musicals were serving up some pretty grown up fare. 

 

Ann Holmes Reinking was born in Seattle, Washington, one of seven children to Walter and Frances Reinking (nee Harrison). Reinking began ballet classes aged eight, and won a scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet School. After graduating from high school, she took part in a Joffrey Ballet summer school. Recognising she could sing and act as well as dance, the school’s founder, Roland Joffrey, encouraged Reinking to gravitate towards musical theatre.

 

Reinking appeared in her first professional show, Bye Bye Birdie, at Seattle Opera House, in 1965. Aged eighteen, and with money saved from waiting tables, she upped sticks to New York, where she lived at the YWCA while taking classes at the American Ballet Theatre School.

 

Following a stint in the corps de ballet of the Radio City Music Hall, Reinking joined the ensemble for a tour of Fiddler on the Roof, and made her Broadway debut aged nineteen in the chorus line of the 1969 production of Cabaret. The same year she joined the ensemble of Coco, starring Katherine Hepburn as Coco Chanel, and went on to appear in Wild and Wonderful (1971)

 

In 1972, Fosse cast Reinking in Pippin. It was the beginning of a relationship that in part defined them both. Outwith her personal and professional liaison with Fosse, Reinking won awards for Over Here! (1974), was Tony nominated for her role as Joan of Arc in Goodtime Charley (1975), and appeared A Chorus Line (1976). 

 

Reinking’s relationship with Fosse gave her casting as Roxie Hart in Fosse’s original production of Chicago (1977) an extra frisson, especially as she was taking over the role from Fosse’s wife, Broadway star Gwen Verdon, from whom he was separated. 

 

Where tension might have been expected, the two women became life-long friends, with Reinking learning the show’s moves from Verdon. In 2019, TV mini series, Fosse/Verdon, saw Reinking played by Margaret Qualley. 

 

Reinking went on to appear in Fosse’s erotically charged revue, Dancin’ (1978), for which she was again Tony nominated. Fosse also cast Reinking in All That Jazz (1979), the director’s semi-autobiographical big-screen fantasia, which saw Roy Scheider play Joe Gideon, a hedonistic choreographer based on Fosse. Reinking played Kate Jagger, Joe’s dancer girlfriend. 

 

Reinking’s film career began in 1978 with Stanley Donen’s big screen satire, Movie Movie, and continued with the big screen version of Annie (1982), in which she sang and danced several numbers as Grace Farrell, the secretary of Oliver Warbucks, played by Albert Finney. 

 

She went on to appear in TV movie, A Night on the Town (1983) before playing one of two pregnant wives to Dudley Moore’s bamboozled bigamist in Blake Edwards’ film, Micki + Maude (1984). Other than a guest role in an episode of The Cosby Show (1987), this was Reinking’s last screen role, as she returned to the more adrenalin-pumped arena of live performance in Fosse’s 1986 revival of Sweet Charity.

 

Despite Fosse’s death the following year, the pair’s partnership was far from over. Reinking’s appearance as Roxie Hart in her 1996 revival of Chicago possessed as much hip-thrusting sass as she had when she first played her almost two decades earlier. In Fosse, too, Reinking took the stage for some shows in 2001.

 

In 1991, Reinking founded The Broadway Theatre Project in Florida. Playbill magazine described the institution as ‘the world’s most prestigious musical theatre arts education programme for high school and college students’.

 

Reinking married four times' first to actor Larry Small (1972), then to investment banker Herbert Allen Jr (1982-1989). With her third husband, businessman James Stuart (1989-1991), Reinking had a son, Christopher, who suffers from the rare genetic disorder, Marfan syndrome. Reinking went on to produce a documentary, In My Hands (2009), about working with children diagnosed with Marfan, and shaping them into a dance troupe.  In 1994, she married sports writer Peter Talbert.

 

While technically retired, Reinking’s long-running revival of Chicago was still shimmying its way through sold out shows right up to 2020’s pandemic enforced theatre closures. When they eventually re-open, Reinking’s high-kicking spirit can be guaranteed to be at the centre of chorus lines to come.

 

Reinking is survived by her husband, Peter Talbert, her son Christopher, and her six siblings, Richard, Robert, James, Jeffrey, Helen and Daniel.


The Herald, February 2nd 2021

 

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Losing Touch With My Mind - Psychedelia in Britain 1986-1990

DISC 1 1. THE STONE ROSES   -  Don’t Stop 2. SPACEMEN 3   -  Losing Touch With My Mind (Demo) 3. THE MODERN ART   -  Mind Train 4. 14 ICED BEARS   -  Mother Sleep 5. RED CHAIR FADEAWAY  -  Myra 6. BIFF BANG POW!   -  Five Minutes In The Life Of Greenwood Goulding 7. THE STAIRS  -  I Remember A Day 8. THE PRISONERS  -  In From The Cold 9. THE TELESCOPES   -  Everso 10. THE SEERS   -  Psych Out 11. MAGIC MUSHROOM BAND  -  You Can Be My L-S-D 12. THE HONEY SMUGGLERS  - Smokey Ice-Cream 13. THE MOONFLOWERS  -  We Dig Your Earth 14. THE SUGAR BATTLE   -  Colliding Minds 15. GOL GAPPAS   -  Albert Parker 16. PAUL ROLAND  -  In The Opium Den 17. THE THANES  -  Days Go Slowly By 18. THEE HYPNOTICS   -  Justice In Freedom (12" Version) 1. THE STONE ROSES    Don’t Stop ( Silvertone   ORE   1989) The trip didn’t quite start here for what sounds like Waterfall played backwards on The Stone Roses’ era-defining eponymous debut album, but it sounds

Big Gold Dreams – A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989

Disc 1 1. THE REZILLOS (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (12/77)  2. THE EXILE Hooked On You (8/77) 3. DRIVE Jerkin’ (8/77) 4. VALVES Robot Love (9/77) 5. P.V.C. 2 Put You In The Picture (10/77) 6. JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS Dead Vandals (11/77) 7. BEE BEE CEE You Gotta Know Girl (11/77) 8. SUBS Gimme Your Heart (2/78) 9. SKIDS Reasons (No Bad NB 1, 4/78) 10. FINGERPRINTZ Dancing With Myself (1/79)  11. THE ZIPS Take Me Down (4/79) 12. ANOTHER PRETTY FACE All The Boys Love Carrie (5/79)  13. VISITORS Electric Heat (5/79) 14. JOLT See Saw (6/79) 15. SIMPLE MINDS Chelsea Girl (6/79) 16. SHAKE Culture Shock (7/79) 17. HEADBOYS The Shape Of Things To Come (7/79) 18. FIRE EXIT Time Wall (8/79) 19. FREEZE Paranoia (9/79) 20. FAKES Sylvia Clarke (9/79) 21. TPI She’s Too Clever For Me (10/79) 22. FUN 4 Singing In The Showers (11/79) 23. FLOWERS Confessions (12/79) 24. TV21 Playing With Fire (4/80) 25. ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980) 1. THE REZILL

Edinburgh Rocks – The Capital's Music Scene in the 1950s and Early 1960s

Edinburgh has always been a vintage city. Yet, for youngsters growing up in the shadow of World War Two as well as a pervading air of tight-lipped Calvinism, they were dreich times indeed. The founding of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947 and the subsequent Fringe it spawned may have livened up the city for a couple of weeks in August as long as you were fans of theatre, opera and classical music, but the pubs still shut early, and on Sundays weren't open at all. But Edinburgh too has always had a flipside beyond such official channels, and, in a twitch-hipped expression of the sort of cultural duality Robert Louis Stevenson recognised in his novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a vibrant dance-hall scene grew up across the city. Audiences flocked to emporiums such as the Cavendish in Tollcross, the Eldorado in Leith, The Plaza in Morningside and, most glamorous of all due to its revolving stage, the Palais in Fountainbridge. Here the likes of Joe Loss and Ted Heath broug