Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Michelle Williams of FOSSE/VERDON

DAWSON'S CREEK was a most popular TV series that made its debut in 1998 and ran for six seasons.  Michelle Williams was in the cast of that teen drama. She played Jennifer Lindley, a young female who owned her sexuality. But the forthright, naughty teen character would get punished for that because...well, that's how prime time TV is, especially when you've got sponsors and stuff -- and teen characters. Here's Michelle as Jennifer Lindley on DAWSON'S CREEK.
If you had gone up to Michelle Williams during a lunch break early in her DAWSON'S CREEK days and shown her this photo and said "The lady in pants is Broadway star Gwen Verdon. She's helping Marilyn Monroe with choreography in dance rehearsals for the 1953 movie GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. By 2019, you will have played both of these famous women in major productions," what do you think she would have said?
For, indeed, that is what has happened so far in her career. Michelle Williams got a Best Actress Oscar nomination for playing Marilyn Monroe.
She played her in the 2011 film, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN based on a time when the screen legend was in London to shoot 1957's THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, co-starring and directed by Laurence Olivier.
Last night on FX, we saw the premiere episode of FOSSE/VERDON, a biopic miniseries about Gwen Verdon's collaboration with and marriage to Bob Fosse. He choreographed one of her biggest Broadway hits, DAMN YANKEES. They also worked together when she repeated her Broadway star-making role in the 1958 Warner Bros. film version of the baseball fantasy musical comedy. The movie co-starred Tab Hunter.
The first episode was so revealing and juicy that I watched it twice. The second episode airs on FX next week, Tuesday. I wish I'd attended a critics screening of the whole production. It hooked my attention so thoroughly that I wish I could see the whole thing in one sitting.  Sam Rockwell plays Bob Fosse. Rockwell and Williams may seem like unusual choices to play two celebrated dancers who were two top artists of Broadway musicals, but you should watch. The two actors are terrific together. Michelle Williams should prepare herself for an Emmy nomination. She's fascinating in the role, capturing that unique throaty lilt Verdon had to her voice. She makes us realize that Tony winner Gwen Verdon has been an overlooked, influential Broadway great. I got the feeling from the first episode that the Tony-winning Broadway leading lady should've gotten billed as a co-director with Bob Fosse in the same way Stanley Donen got co-director credit with Gene Kelly on MGM's SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Verdon was a triple threat talent. She could sing, dance and act. She was also Bob Fosse's collaborator on work that brought him an Oscar for Best Director. She should've received special thanks in the closing credits of 1972's CABARET.
Imagine that. Michelle Williams has played both Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe....
...and Broadway star Gwen Verdon.
She sure has come a long way since DAWSON'S CREEK.

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