Ann Reinking, Tony-Winning Choreographer Broadway star who played Roxie Hart in 'Chicago,' dies at 71 Hollie Silverman

Ann Reinking, Tony-Winning Choreographer Broadway star who played Roxie Hart in 'Chicago,' dies at 71 Hollie Silverman


Ann Reinking, a Broadway star who played Roxy Hart in the musical "Chicago", has died, her manager Lee Gross confirmed the report in an email late Monday night. She was 71. She died while sleeping in a hotel in Seattle on Saturday, her sister-in-law Dharla King told The New York Times. The NYT reported that the cause of death is not yet known.

In a statement by Variety, the family mourned the loss of her "beautiful soul".

Reinking died Saturday while visiting family in Seattle, said her manager, Lee Gross. No cause of death was disclosed.

"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," the statement said. "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!!!"

Ann Reinking, left, performs in "Chicago" in 1996

Born in Seattle in 1949, Reinking became known for her dancing in New York City Broadway shows, according to her bio on IMDB.

After her film debut in 1978's "Movie Movie," she went on to star in the Bob Fosse biopic "All That Jazz," winning several Oscar nominations.

Reinking then starred in John Huston's "Annie" in 1982 as Daddy Warbucks secretary, Grace Farrell.

Ann Reinking poses with her Tony Award for Best Choreography for the show "Chicago" during the 1997 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall.

Her other big break, she said, was in “Dancin’” in 1978, “because I realized you had to be in an original part and that show has to be a hit.” The music-and-dance revue directed and choreographed by Fosse was, running more than three years and earned her a 1978 Tony nomination.

But it was her work on the revival of “Chicago” where Reinking basked in the most attention. The original, a dark indictment of celebrity and hucksterism, opened in the summer of 1975 and ran for about 900 performances. Though not in the opening night cast, Reinking eventually slipped into the role of Roxie Hart, taking over the part from Gwen Verdon, Fosse’s third wife and dancing alter ego. In the 1996 revival, which is still on Broadway, Reinking kept the part of Hart opposite Gray and Neuwirth.

Lin-Manuel Miranda was among those praising her talent. “A singular talent has left us,” he wrote on Twitter. Jason Alexander added: “She was a pure joy — fun and funny and endlessly kind and talented. Heaven’s chorus line just got a star.”

Reinking also gained experience — and stayed in shape — by replacing stars in hit shows: Donna McKechnie in “A Chorus Line”; Gwen Verdon in Fosse’s original “Chicago”; and Debbie Allen in the 1986 revival of “Sweet Charity.”

And she embarked on an eclectic film career — from playing Roy Scheider’s lover in Fosse’s 1979 semi-autobiographical film “All That Jazz,” to the screen version of “Annie” to Blake Edwards’ “Micki and Maude.”

She also created dances for a revival of “Pal Joey” at Chicago’s Goodman Theater and a musical about first lady Eleanor Roosevelt called “Eleanor.” She was on the national tour of “Bye Bye Birdie” opposite Tommy Tune.

After “Eleanor,” offers to choreograph “kept falling in my lap,” Reinking said. She created dances for a pre-Encores “Chicago” in Long Beach, California, with Neuwirth and Juliet Prowse.

In one of the more cringe-worthy moments in her career, Reinking was asked to sing and perform the Oscar nominated song “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins at the 1985 telecast. Reinking lip-synched as she danced a bombastic, cheesy rendition marred by fog.

In recent years, she choreographed “The Look of Love” on Broadway and the Roger Rees-directed off-Broadway “Here Lies Jenny” (2004), starring Neuwirth. In 2011, she helped choreograph “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin” on Broadway.

Tributes poured in from the Broadway community, including from Tony Yazbeck, who called her “an absolute inspiration” and Leslie Odom, Jr., who thanked Reinking for being a mentor: “She honored the calling for real. RIP to a legend.” Bernadette Peters took to Twitter to say her heart was broken and Billy Eichner said she was “one of the most mesmerizing people I’ve ever seen on stage. A singular genius. RIP.”

Following her role as Micki in the 1984 comedy "Micki + Maude," Reinking took a break from acting and never returned to the silver screen.

Instead, she performed on television and stage, making a big Broadway comeback in the 1990's as Roxie Hart in "Chicago," which earned her the Tony Award for Best Choreography.

Reinking also produced a documentary called “In My Hands,” about working with children of Marfan’s Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder of the connective tissues that often leaves its victims with limbs that are disproportionately long. She also produced the film “Two Worlds, One Planet,” about “high-functioning” autism.

Reinking’s first three marriages ended in divorce. Since 1994, she had been married to Peter Talbert. She also is survived by a son, Christopher, who has been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome and autism.

“If there is a heaven, I think Bob can look down and be satisfied. He really did have an exponential effect on the next generation of choreographers and dancers,” Reinking once said.

“He demanded the best from you and you wanted to give it. So you got better. All great directors — however, they do it — make you want to be good. I hope I do it. It’s like being a parent, a psychiatrist, a disciplinarian and a friend. You really have to know when to hold them and when to show them.”

Reinking received several other Tony nominations for her performances in "Fosse," "Dancin," and "Goodtime Charley," according to website.