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.
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.”