Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Life Is a Cabaret

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The bright lights, the music, the dancing, the singing!

Fosse/Verdon should appeal to fans and non-fans alike, to Broadway lovers and movie buffs alike.

How do I know this? Because as a movie buff and fan of Hollywood pictures, I've never had a passion for musicals, but I'll be damned if by the end of Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1 I didn't want to see more of everything.

The Way They Were - Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1

Names are usually remembered when someone has done something so spectacular that forgetting them isn't an option. That's the case of Bob Fosse with his incredible mastery of the stage and in film.

After watching even one episode of Fosse/Verdon, it becomes clear that Gwen Verdon deserves the same name recognition, not only for her personal accomplishments without Bobby but because of how she supported him and helped him achieve greatness.

The premiere of this FX limited series sets the stage for their volatile relationship. By moving through the years and hitting the high marks of Bobby's success, it's easy to see Gwen's involvement in Bobby's success.

Lost in Memories - Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1

It's easy to believe that without Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse would have struggled and might not have hit as many high marks in his career as he did with Gwen -- his partner, his lover, his wife, and the mother of their child, Nicole.

As easy as it is to see how much influence Gwen had on Bobby's success, it's no secret why their partnership and marriage wouldn't have been an altogether happy one

As talented as Bob was, he was also wracked with the idea there would always be someone better than him waiting in the wings to take his place.

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Bobby's memories of learning to dance were laced with fear that if he weren't perfect, he'd get replaced. 

It's not right for someone at such a young age to feel compelled ever onward because of the flames nipping at his butt. It takes some of the love out of the work, an especially sad situation for someone who will spend a lifetime aiming for artistic greatness.

Sweet Charity Dance Lessons - Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1

Bob's move from stage to screen was supposed to be a smooth transition. His success with the Broadway version of Sweet Charity starring Gwen Verdon should have been a hit. 

Instead, it was a box-office bomb, leading Bobby to question himself.

"Sweet Charity is a movie haunted by the presence of an unseen star -- Gwen Verdon. Although Ms. McClaine often looks like Ms. Verdon, she never succeeds in recreating the eccentric line that gave cohesion to the original."


That Gwen remained the star even though she wasn't in the film seemed to prompt Bobby to put some distance between himself and his leading lady.

Gwen always had Bobby's back, but his neediness didn't allow him to stand up for his wife in the same way she did for him.

Bobby wanted to be a star of his own making, but when the going got tough, he knew without a doubt that the weak link was that Gwen wasn't there to support him and to collaborate on what would, inevitably, be a great Fosse/Verdon production.

Paul Reiser as Cy Fuerer - Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1

After Sweet Charity, Bobby could have been a failure. He had to push much harder for his next movie with a $20 box-office bomb in his back pocket than he had when he was new to film as a Broadway sensation.

Fosse never wanted to join Cabaret, but the Sweet Charity experience set him back on that path. 

Cy Fuerer did Bob no favors why suggesting if Gwen were on board, Bobby would be an easier sell to the studio as a director.

I'm not sure this is your kind of movie. This is, uh, it's an intimate musical drama. It's an adult picture. What YOU do, and what you do really well is style, "flash." But this movie, I think it needs a different touch. Yeah?


Once Bob landed the job to direct Cabaret, he pushed Gwen a little further away. She would stay home with Nicole while Cabaret was filming in Munich.

Being away from Gwen set off Bobby's insecurities, which he tried to hide with sex and over-critical decisions about every part of the film.

Studying the Scene - Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1

Perfection isn't the greatest goal because it leaves too much up for chance. Who decides perfection? Can perfection still become a $20 million flop?

Bob's insistence on precise dance moves -- getting every dancer to show each muscle and tendon with something as simple as a snap -- is part of what signifies a Fosse production.

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Even without seeing much of Cabaret, the intensity of his vision could be felt. 

I have never seen a Fosse show or movie, but the songs still reverberate in my mind. His work wriggles into your head and doesn't escape.

He Wants to See the Muscles - Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1

Setting up the dynamic between Fosse and Verdon in the premiere episode will make every scene in the upcoming installments more heartfelt.

Right up front, we know what activates their buttons and how the push and pull of their professional relationship bled into their personal one. 

Gwen: Am I going to be unhappy when I get there?
Bobby: No. Of course not. Why would you be unhappy? Come on. I need you.

Gwen loved Bob and didn't want to get hurt by him but still wanted him to succeed, while Bob's love for Gwen was overshadowed by his insecurities, especially where Gwen was concerned.

Gwen's success before Bobby was an obvious sticking point, but his need for her validation and collaboration meant he would keep making bad decisions about them while still needing her desperately.

Gwen Makes Things Better - Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1

Gwen centered Bobby, but he was so afraid of failure that he couldn't wholly appreciate how spectacular they could have been if he didn't keep her at arm's length so much of the time.

Bob grabbed for women who weren't as talented or renowned as Gwen because it made him feel like the bigger man.

What he couldn't see was that all of the weight she had in the industry Gwen was using to propel him forward

And Bob's intent to make something of himself without Gwen's worked -- on the surface.

Watching the Production - Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1

I would have never known to what degree Gwen supported and nurtured Bob's talent if not for Fosse/Verdon. Their partnership was dead on in every aspect.

Bob had a vision that wasn't complete without Gwen's input.

Related: Tales of the City - First Look and Premiere Date for Netflix Revival!

I don't know that it's true that Gwen was who decided Liza Minelli shouldn't wear anything under her vest for the Cabaret costume, but can you imagine seeing it any other way?

While that might not have been the way it played out actually, it was indicative of the way Gwen crossed Bob's Ts and dotted his Is. 

Kelli Barrett as Liza Minelli - Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1

Subsequent episodes will dig deeper into their relationship and how they work like two halves of a whole.

From raising their daughter to managing their careers, they worked better together.

You and Gwen? You make a hell of a team.


For everything Bobby did, Gwen had something to offer to make it better. 

We'll also find out more regarding how Bobby impacted Gwen's life. The couple wasn't perfect, but they were perfect for each other.

Filming Cabaret - Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1

Nicole Fosse said watching Sam Rockwell sometimes felt like she was back in time watching her father work. She has high praise for the entire cast and production.

Rockwell and Michelle Williams lose themselves in the lives of Bobby and Gwen, and Fosse/Verdon is better for it. Their scenes together are electric, and watching to actors of their caliber tackle intricate dance scenes is only the tip of the iceberg of what's to come on Fosse/Verdon.

Will you be tuning in for more?

What did you think of their performances and the musical numbers?

If you watched, drop us a comment and join us through the end of this limited series.

Life Is a Cabaret Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (22 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Fosse/Verdon Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

"Sweet Charity is a movie haunted by the presence of an unseen star -- Gwen Verdon. Although Ms. McClaine often looks like Ms. Verdon, she never succeeds in recreating the eccentric line that gave cohesion to the original."


I knew it wasn't going to be any good.