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STAGE WIRE

Fosse Due On Broadway With 'Charity,' 'deal'

February 24, 1986|DAN SULLIVAN | Times Theater Critic

Bob Fosse has two shows going to Broadway in April. The first is the smashing revival of "Sweet Charity" that Civic Light Opera saw last summer, starring Debbie Allen. That opens April 23.

But at present Fosse is concentrating on "Big Deal," a new musical based on the 1960 Italian film comedy, "Big Deal on Madonna Street." It opens April 10, after a Boston tryout that began last week. From the reviews, there is work to be done.

Fosse has done his own book, setting the story back in 1930s Chicago and making its characters, a band of bumbling thieves, black. The songs are all from the past ("Happy Days Are Here Again," "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries") but the dances are pure Fosse, and Variety's man in Boston thought they were pretty slick.

Elsewhere, though, he found the show's narrative line muddled, its performances "efficient" rather than engaging, and its light plot too dark. The Boston critics were also of two minds.

Kevin Kelly of the Globe found the first act "exhilarating," but thought that the show slumped after that. "At the moment there are nearly as many problems as pleasures. (But) if Fosse can get the proportions right, 'Big Deal' could be on the money."

The Herald's Arthur Friedman: "When 'Big Deal' sings and dances, it can be brilliant. When it talks, when it tells a story, it's got mush in its mouth."

Bill Gale of the Providence Journal wasn't of two minds. He found the show an example of, but not a triumph of, "flash over content."

Speaking of out-of-town tryouts, the producers of "Legends!" took a full-page ad in Variety quoting the rave reviews that "Legends!" received in Los Angeles.

The bannered quote was from the Los Angeles Times: "Mary Martin and Carol Channing on the same stage! Is that box office or what?"

Not reprinted was the rest of the passage: ". . . Why, they almost wouldn't need a play. That's the thinking behind the 'Legends' package at the Ahmanson and it's wishful thinking. It's not enough to put two great stars--all right, legends--on the same stage. You have to give them something to do."

Is that chutzpah, or what?

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