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Ann Reinking who starred on Broadway as actor, dancer and choreographer dies at age 71

Ann Reinking who starred on Broadway and was the muse of late choreographer Bob Fosse died on Saturday in Washington at age 71.

The Tony Award-winning actor, dancer and choreographer was visiting family in Washington state when she died in her sleep, her sister-in-law Dahrla King told Variety in an article on Monday.

‘The world and our family have lost a vibrant, amazing talent and beautiful soul. Ann was the heart of our family and the life of the party,’ Reinking’s family said in a statement.

Broadway legend: Ann Reinking, shown in May 2019 in New York City, who starred on Broadway and was the muse of late choreographer Bob Fosse died on Saturday in Washington at age 71

‘She was visiting our brother in Washington state when she went to sleep and never woke up. We will miss her more than we can say. Heaven has the best choreographer available now. I’m sure they are dancing up a storm up there! Annie, we will love and miss you always!!!,’ the statement said.

Dancer and choreographer Christopher Dean, who teaches Reinking’s niece, first announced her death Monday on Facebook.

‘The lights on Broadway are forever more dim this morning and there is one less star in the sky. The good news is that heaven has the very best choreographer on earth now,’ Dean posted.

Reinking is best known for portraying Roxie Hart in 1977’s Broadway production of Chicago replacing Gwen Verdon and also reprised the role in the 1996 revival.

Visiting family: The Tony Award-winning actor, dancer and choreographer, shown in 1982, was visiting family in Washington state when she died Saturday in her sleep, her sister-in-law Dahrla King told Variety in an article on Monday

Visiting family: The Tony Award-winning actor, dancer and choreographer, shown in 1982, was visiting family in Washington state when she died Saturday in her sleep, her sister-in-law Dahrla King told Variety in an article on Monday

Her other Broadway productions include Coco in 1969, Over Here! in 1974, Goodtime Charley in 1975, Dancin’ in 1978 and Sweet Charity in 1986.

Reinking in the 1996 revival of Chicago played Roxie and also was the choreographer and won the Tony Award for Best Choreography.

She also was the co-creator, co-director and co-choreographer of the Fosse musical that opened on Broadway in 1999 and showcased choreography of the late Fosse who had a romantic relationship with his muse Reinking.

Hit musical: Phyllis Somerville, Maxene Andrews, Marilu Henner, April Shawhan, Patty Andrews, and Ann are shown in 1974 singing in the Broadway musical Over Here!

Hit musical: Phyllis Somerville, Maxene Andrews, Marilu Henner, April Shawhan, Patty Andrews, and Ann are shown in 1974 singing in the Broadway musical Over Here!

Reinking in Fosse’s 1979 autobiographical musical All That Jazz portrayed Katie Jagger, a fictionalized version of herself who was the main character’s girlfriend. 

Margaret Qualley, 26, portrayed Reinking in the 2019 FX limited series Fosse/Verdon.

Fosse died in 1987 at age 60. 

Famous role: Bebe Neuwirth and Reinking are shown during the landmark performance of Chicago as it became the second longest show in Broadway History at the Ambassador Theatre on November 23, 2014 in New York City

Famous role: Bebe Neuwirth and Reinking are shown during the landmark performance of Chicago as it became the second longest show in Broadway History at the Ambassador Theatre on November 23, 2014 in New York City

Seattle native Reinking also was featured in the 1982 film Annie and the 1984 comedy Micki & Maude. 

Tributes poured in from the Broadway community, including from Tony Yazbeck, who called her ‘an absolute inspiration’ and Leslie Odom, Jr., who thanked Reinking for being a mentor: ‘She honored the calling for real. RIP to a legend.’ 

Bernadette Peters took to Twitter to say her heart was broken and Billy Eichner said she was ‘one of the most mesmerizing people I’ve ever seen on stage. A singular genius. RIP.’  

‘I’m beyond words to hear of the sudden and untimely passing of my dear friend Ann Reinking. The world has lost such a beautiful soul and talent,’ said Chita Rivera. ‘I loved sharing the stage with her whenever we could. Her spirit and razzle-dazzle will be with me forever.’

Reinking’s career began in Seattle, where she grew up. In the beginning, she wanted to be a ballet dancer, ‘like all girls,’ she said. As a student, she won a scholarship in San Francisco with the Joffrey Ballet, but at many of the students´ after-hours improvisations, she would just sing and not dance.

Washington native: Reinking, shown in September 2018 in Paris, started her career in Seattle, where she grew up

Washington native: Reinking, shown in September 2018 in Paris, started her career in Seattle, where she grew up

Robert Joffrey said that with her outgoing personality and other abilities, she should pursue musical theater. ‘I waited tables to save up enough money to get here,’ she said of New York City, where she arrived with a round-trip ticket back to Seattle and $500. She didn’t need the return trip.

‘You wouldn’t get into this if you had a guarantee. People who get into this have a certain sense of the high stakes,’ she said. ‘You need the break and when you get it, you´d better be ready for it.’

Reinking´s break was strung out over several shows. She was in the ensemble for Broadway´s ‘Coco,’ which starred Katharine Hepburn as Coco Chanel, in 1969, and was in the chorus of ‘Pippin’ in 1972, picked by its director and choreographer, Fosse. The ensemble was so small – there were only eight – that the dancers were really seen.

Film star: The actress is shown during the filming of Annie on location at Radio City Music Hall on May 1, 1982 in New York City

Film star: The actress is shown during the filming of Annie on location at Radio City Music Hall on May 1, 1982 in New York City

Choreographer Pat Birch was one who noticed, and in 1974 put her in ‘Over Here,’ a World War II musical starring two of the three Andrews Sisters and featuring another unknown, John Travolta.

It led to a starring role in ‘Goodtime Charley,’ a musical about Joan of Arc opposite Joel Grey. The musical was not a success, but it did make theatergoers look at Reinking as a principal performer and not just a member of the chorus.

Her other big break, she said, was in ‘Dancin´’ in 1978, ‘because I realized you had to be in an original part and that show has to be a hit.’ The music-and-dance revue directed and choreographed by Fosse was, running more than three years and earned her a 1978 Tony nomination.

But it was her work on the revival of ‘Chicago’ where Reinking basked in the most attention. The original, a dark indictment of celebrity and hucksterism, opened in the summer of 1975 and ran for about 900 performances. Though not in the opening night cast, Reinking eventually slipped into the role of Roxie Hart, taking over the part from Gwen Verdon, Fosse´s third wife and dancing alter ego. In the 1996 revival, which is still on Broadway, Reinking kept the part of Hart opposite Gray and Neuwirth.

Award winner: Reinking holds her Tony Award for best choreography for the musical Chicago at the 51st annual Tony Awards on June 1, 1997, in New York

Award winner: Reinking holds her Tony Award for best choreography for the musical Chicago at the 51st annual Tony Awards on June 1, 1997, in New York

Lin-Manuel Miranda was among those praising her talent. ‘A singular talent has left us,’ he wrote on Twitter. Jason Alexander added: ‘She was a pure joy – fun and funny and endlessly kind and talented. Heaven´s chorus line just got a star.’

Reinking also gained experience – and stayed in shape – by replacing stars in hit shows: Donna McKechnie in ‘A Chorus Line’; Gwen Verdon in Fosse´s original ‘Chicago’; and Debbie Allen in the 1986 revival of ‘Sweet Charity.’

And she embarked on an eclectic film career – from playing Roy Scheider´s lover in Fosse´s 1979 semi-autobiographical film ‘All That Jazz,’ to the screen version of ‘Annie’ to Blake Edwards´ ‘Micki and Maude.’

She also created dances for a revival of ‘Pal Joey’ at Chicago´s Goodman Theater and a musical about first lady Eleanor Roosevelt called ‘Eleanor.’ She was on the national tour of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ opposite Tommy Tune.

After ‘Eleanor,’ offers to choreograph ‘kept falling in my lap,’ Reinking said. She created dances for a pre-Encores ‘Chicago’ in Long Beach, California, with Neuwirth and Juliet Prowse.

Best revival: Award winners Reinking, and Neuwirth shared a laugh on stage while accepting the award for best revival of a musical during the 51st Annual Tony Awards on June 1, 1997, in New York

Best revival: Award winners Reinking, and Neuwirth shared a laugh on stage while accepting the award for best revival of a musical during the 51st Annual Tony Awards on June 1, 1997, in New York

In one of the more cringe-worthy moments in her career, Reinking was asked to sing and perform the Oscar nominated song ‘Against All Odds’ by Phil Collins at the 1985 telecast. Reinking lip-synched as she danced a bombastic, cheesy rendition marred by fog.

In recent years, she choreographed ‘The Look of Love’ on Broadway and the Roger Rees-directed off-Broadway ‘Here Lies Jenny’ (2004), starring Neuwirth. In 2011, she helped choreograph ‘An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin’ on Broadway.

Reinking also produced a documentary called ‘In My Hands,’ about working with children of Marfan´s Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder of the connective tissues that often leaves its victims with limbs that are disproportionately long. She also produced the film ‘Two Worlds, One Planet,’ about ‘high-functioning’ autism.

Reinking´s first three marriages ended in divorce. Since 1994, she had been married to Peter Talbert. She also is survived by a son, Christopher, who has been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome and autism.

‘If there is a heaven, I think Bob can look down and be satisfied. He really did have an exponential effect on the next generation of choreographers and dancers,’ Reinking once said.

‘He demanded the best from you and you wanted to give it. So you got better. All great directors – however, they do it – make you want to be good. I hope I do it. It´s like being a parent, a psychiatrist, a disciplinarian and a friend. You really have to know when to hold them and when to show them.’

Reinking is survived by her husband Peter Talbert and son Chris.

Longtime couple: Reinking is survived by her husband Peter Talbert, shown with her in May 1993 in New York City, and son Chris

Longtime couple: Reinking is survived by her husband Peter Talbert, shown with her in May 1993 in New York City, and son Chris


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