Ann Reinking, Dancer, Actor, Choreographer and Fosse Muse, Dies at 71

Ann Reinking, a dancer, actor and Tony Award-winning choreographer who performed on Broadway for nearly three decades, where she was also known for her long association with Bob Fosse and his work, died on Saturday. She was 71.

Ms. Reinking died in her sleep in a hotel room in the Seattle area, where she was visiting her older brother, said Dahrla King, her sister-in-law. The cause was not yet known, she said.

She was perhaps best known as a performer for playing Roxie Hart in the musical “Chicago.” It was the role that she stepped into in 1977 at 26, and which helped make her a star. And it is the role that she returned to triumphantly nearly two decades later in the hugely successful 1996 Broadway revival — which she also choreographed.

Actress, Dancer, Choreographer Ann Reinking Dies At 71

Actress, Dancer, Choreographer Ann Reinking Dies At 71

Enlarge this image toggle caption Richard Drew/AP Richard Drew/AP

Tony-winning legend and dance icon Ann Reinking died on Saturday, family members confirmed to news outlets on Monday. She was 71.

“The world and our family have lost a vibrant, amazing talent and beautiful soul. Ann was the heart of our family and the life of the party,” her family said in a statement, as reported by Variety.

“She was visiting our brother in Washington state when she went to sleep and never woke up. We will miss her more than we can say. Heaven has the best choreographer available now. I’m sure they are dancing up a storm up there! Annie, we will love and miss you always!!!”

Born in Seattle, Reinking trained in ballet, but ended up in the chorus lines of many musicals, including Cabaret and Pippin.

She graduated to lead roles in shows such as Goodtime Charley, with Joel Grey. In 1977, she took on her most famous role when she replaced Gwen Verdon in Chicago, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse. Fosse hired her for Dancin' and Sweet Charity, and she even played a version of herself in Fosse’s film, All That Jazz.

In 1996, nearly two decades after first dazzling audiences as Roxie Hart in Chicago, she did it again in a revival she hoped would help audiences “rediscover what theater was.” She won a Tony Award for Best Choreography for her efforts the following year.

Enlarge this image toggle caption Walter McBride/Getty Images Walter McBride/Getty Images

A mainstay in Broadway musicals for decades, Reinking was both a muse and lover to Fosse.

That relationship was a pivotal plot line — though somewhat fictionalized — in FX’s recent limited series production, Fosse/Verdon. Fosse was married to Gwen Verdon. Reinking consulted on the project, serving as a personal sounding board to actress Margaret Qualley, who portrayed the famous dancer.

“I was really nervous because I wanted to do right by her,” Qualley told IndieWire of the experience. “I looked up to her for so long, was so familiar with her. More than anything, I wanted her to like it. I didn’t even know her yet, but I was already thinking about that.”

On Monday, choreographer Christopher Dean, whom Variety reports teaches Reinking’s niece, mourned the death of the actress.

“The lights on Broadway are forever more dim this morning and there is one less star in the sky,” he wrote in Facebook post. “The good news is that heaven has the very best choreographer on earth now.”

Tony-winning Broadway star Ann Reinking dies aged 71

Ann Reinking, the Broadway star whose elegant style, mesmerising physicality and piercing gaze lit up musicals including Chicago, has died at the age of 71. Her former co-star Chita Rivera was among those paying tribute and said that Reinking’s “spirit and razzle-dazzle will be with me for ever”. Reinking’s manager, Lee Gross, said that she died on Saturday while visiting family in Seattle.

Reinking had parts in Cabaret, Pippin and Goodtime Charley (as Joan of Arc) before taking over the role of the ambitious, murderous Roxie Hart in Chicago in 1977. Twenty years later, she reprised the role and won a Tony award for choreographing the revival of that musical in its originator Bob Fosse’s style. She and Fosse had a long relationship on and off the stage; she starred in his show Dancin’ and directed and co-choreographed a Broadway revue celebrating his work. Their lives are explored in the acclaimed mini-series Fosse/Verdon, in which Reinking is played by Margaret Qualley.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Ann Reinking, right, with Bebe Neuwirth in a performance of Chicago in 2006. Photograph: Walter McBride/Getty Images

In Fosse’s semi-autobiographical film All That Jazz in 1979, Reinking’s number There’ll Be Some Changes Made captures the shimmering, steely darkness of his style, complete with shoulder shrugs, wrist flicks and pelvic thrusts. Her screen career included a celebrated role in Annie as the kindly Grace Farrell, who helps the red-headed orphan settle into Daddy Warbucks’s mansion and shares with her the number I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here. She played one of the two wives of Dudley Moore’s character in the bigamy comedy Micki and Maude (1984).

Born on 10 November 1949 in Seattle, Reinking had ballet lessons as a child and studied with San Francisco Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet. She arrived in New York in her late teens and danced at Radio City Music Hall before gaining her first Broadway roles, including a part opposite Katharine Hepburn in Coco.

Reinking lived in Arizona with her husband, Peter Talbert, and son, Christopher.

Chicago returned to London in 2018. “Every step is basically a word,” she said in a Guardian interview that year, “especially with musical theatre, because you’re not doing it for dance’s sake, you’re promoting a story – and, more than that, a moral. You’re propelling a story. So the steps – as well as the lyrics and the music – combine always to progress the story. They really are another form of language.”