“Every step is basically a word with musical theatre because you’re not doing it for dance’s sake, you’re promoting a story – and, more than that, a moral. You’re propelling a story. So the steps – as well as the lyrics and the music – combine always to progress the story. They really are another form of language.”Ann Reinking
In Bob Fosse‘s great semi-autobiographical film about his career as a dancer, choreographer and director, All That Jazz (1979), Ann Reinking has a musical number There’ll Be Some Changes Made that embodies his shimmering, steely dark style, with those Fosse shoulder shrugs, wrist flicks and pelvic thrusts.
The film was inspired by Fosse’s manic effort to edit his film Lenny while simultaneously staging the 1975 Broadway musical Chicago. Reinking was one of Fosse’s lovers at the time and she was more or less playing a version herself in the film, but she was still required to audition for the role.
Reinking’s other film roles include her celebrated role in Annie (1982) as the elegant, kindly Grace Farrell, who helps that little red-headed orphan settle into Daddy Warbucks’s mansion with her the number I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here. She played one of the two wives of Dudley Moore’s character in the brittle comedy Micki And Maude (1984).
Born in 1949 in Seattle, Reinking studied ballet growing up and worked with San Francisco Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet. She arrived in New York when she 18 years old and was hired as a member of the corps de ballet at the Radio City Music Hall, performed in the chorus of a national tour of Fiddler On The Roof before making her Broadway debut as a Kit-Kat girl in Cabaret. She was also in the chorus in Coco (1969) with Katharine Hepburn and Pippin (1972), where she received special attention from Fosse the show’s director and choreographer. Reinking became Fosse’s protégée and romantic partner, an affair that continued even as Fosse was still legally married to Gwen Verdon at the time.
Reinking became a big Broadway star with an elegant style, mesmerizing physicality and a penetrating, sensual gaze that were used to great effect in many musicals including Over Here! (1974), winning a Theatre World Award. He first starring role was as Joan of Arc in Goodtime Charley (1975) opposite Joel Grey, receiving a Tony Award nomination. In 1976, she replaced Donna McKechnie as Cassie in A Chorus Line; in 1977, she replaced Verdon as Roxie Hart in Chicago directed and choreographed by Fosse. In 1978, she appeared in Fosse’s Broadway revue Dancin’, receiving another Tony nomination. That same year, Reinking and Fosse ended their romance, yet they continued to have a professional, creative collaboration. Fosse’s influence on Reinking’s work as a choreographer could be seen in her work.
In 1996, Reinking played Roxie Hart again (after almost 20 years) in an Encores! concert version of Chicago for four nights. The revival was a hit, and it moved to Broadway with the Encores! cast: Bebe Neuwirth, Joel Grey, James Naughton, and Reinking It is the longest-running musical revival on Broadway. Reinking won the Tony Award for Best Choreography.
The lives of Fosse and Reinking are part of the focus in the acclaimed mini-series Fosse/Verdon (2019) where Reinking is convincingly played by Margaret Qualley.
In 2017, Reinking retired and moved to Arizona. Her son has Marfan syndrome, and Reinking worked with the Marfan Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the disease. She produced a documentary film In My Hands: A Story of Marfan Syndrome (2009).
I saw her several times on stage, including in a tour of Bye Bye Birdie with Tommy Tune in 1991 in her hometown of Seattle. She was enthralling and lit up a rather dreary production with her presence.
Reinking took that final curtain call on Saturday December 12, 2020, while visiting family in Seattle. No cause of death has been announced.