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Your Fairy Godfather’s Guide to Bob Fosse’s "Rich Man’s Frug" from "Sweet Charity"

Updated on June 15, 2013

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

My wings are all aflutter with excitement at telling you about one of the great movie dance numbers of all time. But first a prelude to the clip from the 1969 classic Sweet Charity. Charity Hope Valentine, a taxi dancer played by the fabulous Shirley MacLaine, is charmed by one of her millionaire clients, Vittorio Vidal, played by the suave Ricardo Montalban. He takes her to his favorite haunt of the rich and famous, where they witness the Rich Man’s Frug. Enjoy the entertainment now.

Frug

The Frug, which you pronounce FROOG, is not a made up name. No, darling, it was an actual dance in the 1960s and was sometimes called the Surf, Big Bea or Thunderbird. Your fairy godfather and his enchanted friends did it when the Twist tuckered us out. We flailed our arms and legs in way of the Twist but toned down the swiveling hips into a fast or sometimes slow sway. We were so creative back then: our gyrations morphed the basic dance into such standards as the Watusi, the Mashed Potato and the Jerk.

Bob Fosse
Bob Fosse

Fosse

Let us all hold hands around the electronic ether and bow our heads in homage to the creator of Rich Man’s Frug, the legendary Bob Fosse (1927 – 1987). With eight awards to his credit, the master has won more Tonys for choreography than anybody else. (His one director’s Tony for Pippin’ was a bonus.) Sweet Charity was the first of his five feature films. His next film, Cabaret, won eight Oscars, including Best Director. The most famous of his paramours was his third wife, Gwen Verdon, an actress and dancer. She was uncredited as the assistant choreographer of Sweet Charity.

Suzanne Charney
Suzanne Charney | Source

The Aloof

The first of the three dances in the Rich Man’s Frug showcases Bob Fosse’s ability to combine social commentary, humor and innovative movement. Rich snobs, incapable of expressing any true emotion in their faces, reveal their boredom with highly controlled and stylized leg and arm movements that boil down even further to a thumb dance. The swiveling of open palms and fists around the wrists is very Bob Fosse.

The main mama here is Suzanne Charney. She was the lead dancer in the first Broadway production and reprised her role in the film. She later acted in several TV shows.

The Heavyweight

The second dance always brings your fairy godfather a smile as being the funniest in the collection. Perhaps this number reveals the struggles and competitiveness inherent in the lifestyles of the super-rich and between the sexes. Or maybe it’s just supposed to be fun. In any case, it’s just a bit too fey to be taken as a serious commentary on boxing.

The final crouching line dance that leads to a knockout is a marvelous display of coordination, strength and endurance. Don’t believe me? Try doing it solo and see how long you last before your gams give out.

Ben Vereen
Ben Vereen

The Big Finish

The aptly titled finale allows the swells to suddenly let loose all their pent-up under the camouflage of the dark and dim light, but only between bouts of self-controlled group expression. The caged wild leopard seems domestically tame compared to these crazy bunnies.

Look out for hoofer Ben Vereen who whips the crowd up into a frenzy in his first film appearance. (Another Broadway celebrity, Chita Rivera, also makes her film debut but is not in this number.) Eventually, the freak out dissipates and order is restored as the dancers straighten their mussed-up coifs to return to their normal straightjackets.

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      It would be fun to see a live performance of this someday. In the meantime, I really enjoyed the video. It was also fun reading your hub. Thanks! Up, interesting and tweeting.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      I hadn't heard of this before and I can really see your enthusiasm for it shining through in this hub. :) You give great detail and information. I might have to learn more about "The Frug" - ahaha. Many votes.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      6 years ago from West Virginia

      Very clever Alocsin. This seems to be an interesting series that I just discovered from your profile. I still want to make my way to more railroad articles. This is a great idea Alocsin. Great writing! Have a great Memorial day pal.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 

      6 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Aurelio,

      I love your Fairy Godfather's series of articles. They're such fun to read.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      alocsin 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks Cindy. I've corrected my injustice to the fabulous Suzanne Charney.

    • profile image

      Cindy 

      6 years ago

      To clarify, Anne Reinking was around but would've been too young. And forgot the link to Suzanne Charny

      http://charnysculptures.com/biography.html

      Cheers :)

    • profile image

      Cindy 

      6 years ago

      Great Website! Just a quick note - Ann Reinking was not the main dancer in the Rich Man's Frug. She would have been a child at the time, if she was even born. The role was given to Suzanne Charney - a dancer and later actress (born 1949) who originated the role on in the play on Broadway.

    • profile image

      babithababa 

      6 years ago

      Dear alocsin what shall I say . I think I have to find time to read all of your articles . Till then I voted this up . Useful for me for the history class ..

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 

      6 years ago

      Love a good musical...voted up...put me in a better mood :)

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      alocsin 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thank you ladies for enjoying my article.

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Kate Swanson 

      6 years ago from Sydney

      Classic Fosse! I used to dance Luigi jazz and adored it. Brought back memories, thanks!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      What a hoot! The frug had its highlights and was a prelude to the modern day dance (as mentioned by molometer). Have to say that the music was a bit slower but still had some wild beat and rythm. Great entertainment!

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      alocsin 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'm glad we're all fans. Thanks for watching.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Awesome hub..love shirley mcclain...great movie...voted way up..debbie

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Brilliant hub alocsin,

      The influence of Bob Fosse cannot be under estimated. Today's dancers use many of his innovative dance moves. Beyonce' for one. He is everywhere.I wish my gams would last 5 minutes lol

      Those 60's dances and the video had me in stitches.SHARING this.

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