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Ann Reinking

Remembering Ann Reinking

by Steve Lawson

No matter what she tackled, Ann Reinking’s motor ran a little faster. Just consider her Tony-winning choreography for the Broadway revival of Chicago, where she brilliantly evoked the quintessence of Bob Fosse. Not to mention her offbeat interpretation of merry murderess Roxie Hart in the same production.

Williamstown audiences got to see her up close in 1986, when she performed in Gorky’s Barbarians and Tennessee Williams’ classic Summer and Smoke. Neither role was an obvious choice for Reinking. Yet she rose to the challenge, clearly relishing the chance to extend her acting range. She also scored in the late-night Cabaret, where her rendition of “Big Noise from Winnetka” brought down the house. (A good thing it was the first-act closing number; nothing could have followed it.)

I was lucky enough to work directly with her two years later, when on the spur of the moment she agreed to choreograph a complex party scene in my Free Theatre adaptation of Tom Jones. We only had Annie with us for an hour, but in that time she transformed a gaggle of left-footed non-Equity actors into a clique of sensual and elegant dancers. Wizardry.

And I’ll always remember one particular gathering at my house. As the evening was coming to a close, Annie positioned herself at one end of the backyard and proceeded to take enormous leaping strides the whole length of the lawn. She came back, not even out of breath, and flashed her familiar grin. “I just couldn’t waste all that beautiful space,” she explained.

Ann Reinking knew how to move. And when she did, she moved us.

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