Tony Award winner Wayne Cilento’s career spans more than six decades and nearly 20 Broadway shows. Now, he returns to the Main Stem as the director of “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’” — a revival of the original 1978 production, in which Cilento performed and earned his first Tony nomination.
In the latest episode of “The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal,” Cilento chats with Paul Wontorek about his personal experience with “Dancin’,” as well as his extensive career both in front of and behind the table.
When speaking about the original production directed and choreographed by Fosse, Cilento said it was a progressive time in his career. Cilento had just finished his run as the original Mike in “A Chorus Line,” followed by his stint in “The Act” starring Liza Minelli. In fact, he had missed the initial “Dancin’” auditions due to his schedule, but, with the help of choreographer Graciela Daniele, he was able to dash out of rehearsals with Liza to be seen.
He auditioned for Fosse and Ann Reinking, who led Cilento through a dance combo before asking him to sing. “They kept on raising my key like a crazy man,” Cilento recalled. He booked the show — and Fosse put him into every single number.
“It was a killer,” Cilento said. “It was a non-stop killer show.”
At the time, the format of “Dancin’” was new. The production had three acts and featured solely dancers and music. Cilento recalled how Fosse experimented with different movement styles as they worked on the show. “It was just unbelievable to be in that situation,” he said.
Cilento also spoke about Fosse’s continued influence, and how now, as the director of the “Dancin’” revival, he’s begun to really dig into who the late icon was — both as a man and a dancer.
“You kind of fall into the very specific part of Bob,” Cilento said. “The sexy part, the still part, the seductive. The finger, the shoulder, the eye. But then there’s this explosive part of Bob Fosse that people don’t see. I want to get the essence of him.”
In recreating “Dancin’” for a new generation, Cilento shared his desire to keep the production about Fosse’s choreography while also paying tribute to his influence as a film director-choreographer. To achieve that, Cilento said the musical will feature a set that resembles a soundstage with scaffolding as if it were being filmed or performed in a different environment. Cilento asked himself: What Fosse would do as far as technology and sound and more?
“How would he push those buttons?” Cilento pondered. “He was always ahead of the curve. Hopefully, I did that and I also gave the audience the essence of who that man was as a brilliant choreographer and dancer.”
“Dancin’” begins previews at the Music Box Theatre on March 2 ahead of an official opening night on March 19.
This week’s episode of “The Broadway Show” features an interview with Ben Crawford, starring as the Phantom in the long-running “Phantom of the Opera” as the show prepares to close in April. Viewers can also get to know Justin Cooley, making his Broadway debut opposite Tony winner Victoria Clark in “Kimberly Akimbo.” As part of its Black History Month spotlight, the episode highlights the Black Theatre Coalition and the work the organization is doing to elevate BIPOC individuals as they seek employment and opportunities within the industry.
“The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal” airs on weekends. Check your local listings for air time and channel.