Ann Reinking, the Tony-winning actress, dancer, and choreographer, and an icon to LGBTQ+ theater fans, has died at age 71.
The Seattle-born performer was visiting her brother in Washington State when she died Saturday night, Variety reports. “She went to sleep and never woke up,” her family said in a statement. “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!!!”
Reinking got her start in theater in a Seattle Opera House production of Bye Bye Birdie in 1965. She made her Broadway debut in 1969 as a member of the ensemble in Cabaret and soon established herself as one of the best dancers on the stage as well as a talented actress.
Her star-making role came in 1977, when she played murderess and 1920s tabloid sensation Roxie Hart in the John Kander-Fred Ebb musical Chicago, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, to whom she was both muse and lover. Their relationship was fictionalized in the 1979 Fosse-helmed film All That Jazz, with Roy Scheider playing self-destructive Broadway director-choreographer Joe Gideon, based on Fosse, and Reinking portraying a version of herself called Kate Jagger.
Chicago was not a major hit at the time, but it was when it was revived in 1996, with Reinking reprising her role as Roxie Hart and choreographing the show in the style of Fosse. She won the Tony for Best Choreography. The revival ran until Broadway theaters went dark this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, having featured a variety of actors, and performances are set to resume when theaters reopen. It was adapted into a 2002 film starring Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, which won the Oscar for Best Picture.
Reinking’s other Broadway work includes succeeding Donna McKechnie in the lead role of Cassie in the original production of A Chorus Line; appearing in the Fosse review Dancin’; taking the title role in a 1980s revival of Sweet Charity, directed by Fosse, as was the original; and co-creating, co-choreographing, co-directing, and performing in Fosse, a 1999 compilation of his work. Fosse, who was noted for the sexy, athletic dances he created, died in 1987.
Besides All That Jazz, Reinking had her biggest film roles in John Huston’s 1982 adaptation of Annie, playing Grace Farrell, secretary to Daddy Warbucks, and 1984’s Micki & Maude, in which she and Amy Irving were the wives of bigamist Dudley Moore. She also worked in television and was a consultant on the 2019 FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon, in which Margaret Qualley portrayed Reinking.
LGBTQ+ performers and fans were among the many who paid tribute to Reinking, who is survived by her husband, Peter Talbert, and son, Chris.
“Ann Reinking was a goddess to share the stage with and be inspired by,” Joel Grey said in a statement to Variety. “We did two Broadway shows together, joyfully — Goodtime Charley in 1975 and Chicago in 1996. She will remain a unique star and a loving friend for the ages. I’m heartbroken!”
Many others mourned her on social media, including Billy Eichner, Rosie O’Donnell, Mark Harris, and The Prom’s Ariana DeBose.