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Fosse; Get Me Rodd Keith!

This collection of Bob Fosse's choreography from stage, film, and television reminds you of what Broadway can and should be. A musical's book is usually a liability -- Fosse, happily, doesn't really have one. Its singing avoids the caterwauling of contemporary shows; Reva Rice spectacularly opens the evening with "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries." And the dancing -- the jutting hips, the arched backs, the rolling shoulders, and the upraised thumbs and forefingers clutching the brims of bowler hats -- is Fosse's signature. The gorgeous 20-member company provides mostly bliss. (Only the sentimental stereotypes of "Mr. Bojangles" and the "hot" pas de deux of "Take Off With Us" from All That Jazz detract.) Some critics have complained of the lack of context for the numbers, as if you needed The Pajama Game's silly book to explain Fosse's glorious steps to "Steam Heat," wonderfully danced by Linda Bowen, Matt Loehr, and Mark Swanhart. And "Mein Herr" from Cabaret helps erase the cruddiness of Sam Mendes' recent remounting. Fosse and his collaborators understood the dramatic tension possible in quiet and stillness. "Hey Big Spender" from Sweet Charity has relatively little movement as the bored whores try to convince customers how hot they are for them; Dylis Croman's cigarette is often the only motion as it bobs along with the beat. Terace Jones' sinuous slithering in "Percussion 4" stands out, as does Croman's swingin' solo in the finale, "Benny Goodman's 'Sing, Sing, Sing.'" Featuring Louis Prima's pounding, thumping music, "Sing, Sing, Sing" is 15 minutes of heaven. Fosse co-creators Richard Maltby Jr., Chet Walker, and Ann Reinking furnish a new context for Fosse's choreography, and with the great company of dancers, offer something lacking all too often in modern musicals -- happiness.

Through May 27 at the Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is $30-75; call 551-7770.

Get Me Rodd Keith!
Advertisements in the backs of seedy magazines used to urge readers to send their song lyrics in to places where, for money, they'd be set to music, thereby speeding hopefuls toward lucrative songwriting careers. Of course, nobody was actually sped toward anything, but you did get a melody for your verses. One of the most prolific composers for the song-poem industry was Rodd Keith, whose music for the often hilarious words of countless putative lyricists is actually available on CD. The song-poem scam is a great setup for a musical spoof, and this Misery/Loves Company production has many good ideas. But Joshua Pollock's script needs heavy editing, if not a complete rewrite; Meredith Eldred's sloppy direction lacks pacing and rhythm; and the muddy music direction and sound mixing (also by Pollock) doom what should be the most entertaining elements -- the songs themselves. (Sample lyric: "My mouth is open wide, as if it's saying, 'Come on in!'") The acting is all over the place: Sean Owens (as a song-poem entrepreneur) chews the scenery something fierce, while Pollock blandly walks through his own title role. At significantly longer than two hours, Rodd Keith is torturous, when it should be sharp and fleet. It's too good a concept for execution this shoddy.

Through May 27 at the Exit Theater, 156 Eddy (between Mason and Taylor), S.F. Admission is $12-14; call 566-2578.

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