Bob Fosse, 60, the eight-time Tony award-winning director and choreographer, collapsed while walking from his hotel and died of a massive heart attack last night just before a revival of his musical "Sweet Charity" opened here at the National Theatre.

Fosse led rehearsals of the musical, which was a hit when originally staged in 1966, from noon until 5 p.m. yesterday and collapsed on Pennsylvania Avenue shortly after 6:30 p.m. while walking to the theater from the Willard Hotel, where he was staying. He was with Gwen Verdon, his former wife and codirector of the show. {See review, Page C1.}

Fosse was taken to George Washington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:23 p.m.

The curtain went up at the theater at 7 p.m. and Cy Coleman, who wrote the music for "Sweet Charity," said that when Fosse was not present for the first act, he went looking for him at the Willard. Coleman said Verdon later told him that she and Fosse were walking down the street in front of the hotel when Fosse "felt faint and finally his knees buckled. She couldn't deal with it so she called an ambulance."

"Bobby was too alive to be dead," Coleman said.

Cast members learned of Fosse's death about 10 p.m. after the last curtain and a standing ovation, shortly before they were to have gone to the Old Ebbitt Grill at 675 15th St. NW, said Alma Viator, a spokeswoman for the National Theatre. Many of the shocked cast "scattered" after hearing the news, Viator said.

She said there had been no indication during the day that Fosse had been feeling unwell. "He was in high spirits," she said.

Fosse had suffered a massive heart attack in 1975 while rehearsing the Broadway musical "Chicago," which starred Verdon. He made artistic use of that attack, conceiving a film about the experience as he was recuperating.

The movie, "All That Jazz," which emerged four years later, was about an obsessive director-choreographer named Joe Gideon, played by Roy Scheider, who suffers a heart attack while rehearsing a Broadway musical starring his ex-wife, refuses to stop smoking or change other harmful health habits, and dies in a song-and-dance finale.

In a 1980 interview, Fosse remarked that the drive that produced the movie and kept him in pursuit of his art was "fear of failure and a desire to create something that will last for a little while. For me personally, it's the fear that I have to work harder than other people, that I'm not good enough . . . . "

Fosse established himself as an electrifying choreographer with his first assignment, the 1954 musical "The Pajama Game."

He was a master of razzle-dazzle, entranced with the lower forms of show business, some of which he had known firsthand as a young vaudeville performer.

A Fosse musical always bore traces of the carnival, the burlesque show and the blowzy nightclub. But he transformed the vulgarity with an unfailing sense of discipline and good-natured jocularity.

A Fosse dance number could be confused with no others. It was a fine-tuned, precision machine in which all the dancers functioned as cogs.

At the same time, Fosse reveled in refashioning the bodies of his dancers. Knocked knees, crooked elbows, arched necks and splayed hips were his signatures. And his favorite costumes were invariably the bowler hat, mesh stockings, garter belts and tight-fitting tuxedo jackets -- often distributed impartially among both the men and women of the chorus.

Fosse also worked in films, winning an Oscar for his bold and innovative direction of the 1972 movie "Cabaret," which starred Liza Minnelli and portrayed the decadence of Nazi Berlin in the 1930s.

In that year, he won a "triple crown" of directing, also receiving a Tony for his direction of the musical "Pippin," and an Emmy award for his direction of the television special "Liza With a Z." No other director has achieved that feat.

A stage revival of "Cabaret," starring Joel Grey, is in revival at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

"Sweet Charity," one of Fosse's most enduring creations, opened this week at the National Theatre for a four-week run. It first opened on Broadway in 1966, with Verdon as the original Charity. Verdon, who had starred in a number of his other Broadway musicals, had helped him re-create the dance numbers.

Fosse gave the show its distinctive stamp. The story line -- revolving around the lovelorn Charity Hope Valentine, played in the newest rendition by Donna McKechnie, and her romantic travails with a phobia-ridden accountant -- was free of complications.

It gave maximum room for zestful dancing in which cast members were horizontal as often as they were vertical.

He won Tony Awards for his choreography in the Broadway musical hits "The Pajama Game" in 1956, "Damn Yankees" in 1957, "Redhead" in 1959, "Little Me" in 1963, "Sweet Charity" in 1966, "Pippin" in 1972, for which he won two Tonys, and "Dancin' " in 1978.

His film work included direction of "Cabaret," "All That Jazz" and "Lenny."

Fosse was married three times, each time to a dancer -- Mary Ann Miles, Joan McCracken and Verdon. All his marriages ended in divorce. He and Verdon had a daughter, Nicole.

He was born in Chicago on June 23, 1927. He got his first job in a nightclub at 13 and then moved to New York, where he was hired by George Abbott as choreographer for "The Pajama Game."

In an interview Friday, Fosse told Washington Post staff writer Joe Brown that retracing his steps in Sweet Charity wasn't easy.

"I never learned Labanotation {the standard system of dance notation}, so my notes were full of stick figures and illegible little scrawls," he said. "I dug them out again, but they didn't help much."

Fosse said the show had lasting appeal. "You're always afraid in this business that your work will become dated, but I think 'Charity' has held up pretty well."

He said he still felt bruised from his greatest failure, the mammoth musical "Big Deal," which took a critical and financial drubbing last year in New York. "I don't know if I'll go back to Broadway for a long time. It still kind of hurts too much," he said of that experience.

He said he was developing several film projects, including a film version of "Chicago," for which he said he was considering pop singer Madonna for a lead role.

Staff writers Carlos Sanchez and David Richards contributed to this report.