It wasn't until the curtain had come down on the opening night of "Sweet Charity" that the cast was called onstage and informed that Bob Fosse had collapsed earlier that evening on a Washington street and died.

"I just walked off," said dancer Chet Walker, still looking a little stunned, a little hurt. "I just felt, 'You haven't taught me everything.' "

Yesterday, members of the company of "Sweet Charity" were coping with the death of Fosse, 60, their director, choreographer and -- at least for some -- mentor. And the Fosse they recalled was the man who sent them out on opening nights with self-confidence, who fused their dancing with their acting and who, in Walker's words, "always made you look as good as possible."

Yesterday evening, lights on Broadway and at the National Theatre, where "Sweet Charity" is playing, dimmed for one minute in memory of Fosse.

Earlier yesterday, half a dozen company members gathered in the Helen Hayes Gallery of the National to talk about Fosse. It was only 24 hours since their last rehearsal with him, less than that since the revival of "Sweet Charity" opened here. They lapsed into the present tense when they spoke of him and choked up when they recalled how they'd learned of his death.

It was Fosse's habit to pace on stage before a show, dancer Quin Baird, a member of the "Sweet Charity" company and a veteran of other Fosse projects, recalled. When the performance started, Baird said, "he'd go out and watch, come back at intermission and do the same thing."

So obviously, something was wrong when he wasn't there Wednesday night at curtain time.

"I knew something was up, because Bob wasn't there," said Walker, 33, one of two dance captains in the "Sweet Charity" company and a veteran of Fosse shows since 1975. "He's always there. I wanted him to see the show. It was so good. All that work had finally come together."

Midway through the show, Baird recalls, "I knew something was wrong -- inside of me. I was up in my dressing room, angry with Bob, and I don't know why. I was hitting the walls. But I never get angry like that. I was upset and exasperated -- I felt like I hadn't done enough for Bob.

"Well," said Baird, his eyes welling with tears as he paused, "it was such a shock. It was so hard to believe. People broke down in their own way."

Lenora Nemetz, her mouth set, her index finger dabbing at a tear, ("She is thrilled to be working with her idols, Mr. Fosse and Ms. {Gwen} Verdon," reads her entry in the Playbill) said simply, "It was one of the worst moments I've had in my life."

Nemetz has known Fosse since 1975 when she was hired for the musical "Chicago." "I stood by for Gwen and later I replaced Chita {Rivera}. I was from Pittsburgh. Everyone said to Bob, 'Why are you hiring a girl from Pittsburgh to stand by for Gwen?' " When she's not on the road with a show, Nemetz, 37, still lives in Pittsburgh.

"I was his dependable, sort of," she said with a grin. "That's how he felt about me. I adored him . . . His belief in my talent made me a better actress."

They only did two shows together -- "Chicago" and "Sweet Charity" -- but their friendship made it seem like more, she mused.

"Yesterday at rehearsal," Nemetz recalled, "he was saying, 'You know, everybody takes so long with their lines. It's like the audience knows what you're going to say before you say it. What's that line you have, Lenora?' I said, 'Oh, I knew you were going to mention that.' And he said, 'Well, you know -- how many shows have we done together? Eight?' "

The memories of their last rehearsal with Fosse Wednesday afternoon were sweet.

When he was giving notes Wednesday, Baird said, "he started off the whole thing, 'The first thing is you're wonderful, you're very good.' " Baird, 36, worked with Fosse "almost constantly" since the 1979 Fosse movie "All That Jazz," through three companies of "Dancin' " and through two years of this touring production of "Sweet Charity."

Baird was nervous when he first went to work for him -- "someone with that aura . . . I've heard him get very upset. But he always walked away and came back."

Walker says Fosse nurtured his dancers. "He can take a group of people nervous about opening night, talk to them, and you come away saying, 'You know, this is going to be okay,' " Walker said. "It's not exactly what he said, because he's been saying the same thing to you all these years: Listen to the other actor onstage; don't play anything that's not there; be true to what's going on. But he's like your dad, your big brother. He makes you feel good about yourself."

"All That Jazz," Fosse's autobiographical film about an overstressed, hard-living director who has a heart attack in the middle of preparing a show, has turned out to be eerily prophetic. In fact, asked to describe a habit of the director's, Walker said, "He liked to smoke." But Walker noted of Fosse's life, "It's not like we were waiting for a time bomb . . . He liked life and he loved rehearsing. That's what he liked most, getting in a room with dancers."

An opening-night party had been scheduled for Wednesday night at a nearby restaurant.

"Some of us went, had a toast to Bob and left," said Lenora Nemetz with a smile.