DANCIN' -- A the National Theater through April 12.
Bob Fosse, who celebrates his own heart attack in the film "All That Jazz," celebrates his own creativity in "Dancin'," now at the National Theater. Of the two, his work is more interesting than his life.
"Dancin'" is not a musical comedy, but a showcase of Fosse choreography in different styles of dance.
In this, it resembles "The American Dance Machine," except that the earlier show paid tribute to all the famous choreographers of American musical comedy and Fosse has confined himself to one.
(Each also honors one dancer -- Bojangles, "Dance Machine" did that more simply and more movingly, with one dancer working the intermission. "Dancin'" has two Bojangleses, one a spirit.)
There is a final patriotic pageant to wind things up, but this show's bringing America into its celebration is not the same thing as celebrating America.
As "Dancin'" came out before "All That Jazz," the literary sequence should probably be read as a relization of how clever Fosse is, followed by the fear of what a loss his death would be. But since the film opened here first, you can also read the show as one of those evening-long tributes to someone we are frightened to find is mortal, after all.
The anthology includes tap dance, modern ballet, jazz and disco, and he is adept in each. One soon recognizes the Fosse cliches -- circling mops of hair, widespread hands perpendicular to the arms, a prancing step with knees high -- but he is certainly able to work them into a wide dance vocabulary.
It's performed by a versatile group of good dancers, although they are better at individual expressiveness than company precision. The singing is incidental expressiveness than company precision. The singing is incidnetal, but there is one number, Ron Dennis in "I've Got Them Feelin Too Good Today Blues," that could easily slip into the light story of a conventional musical.
We are told, however, at the show's opening that the sentimental plots that characterize the American musicial-comedy theater are to be avoided. Coming from someone whose idea of a musical-comedy plot includes a chest being cut open for surgery, this is probably just as well.