But it wouldn't be until 10 years later that Huffman took home the Tony Award for working with another famous director/choreographer (Susan Stroman) on the Tony Award-winning musical The Producers.
Which then, of course, led to her playing herself (and Ulla) in Larry David's hit HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm. #WhatASeason
Huffman's additional stage credits include Broadway's La Cage aux Folles, The Nance and Steel Pier and off-Broadway's The Man Who Came to Dinner and Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter. And on TV, she was a regular judge on Food Network's Iron Chef America.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when Huffman told BroadwayBox that the role she considers as her game-changer was the ensemble track of director/choreographer Bob Fosse's short-lived musical Big Deal in 1986.
I could definitely thank Tommy Tune for a lot of things but I’m always struck at how Bob Fosse changed my entire world—that really was a world changer for me. The responsibility he placed on his ensemble members was enormous, and I was a great dancer back then. Kick, spin, anything you needed I could do it. But that's not what was important to him; we were all expected to create characters and real moments within our ensemble tracks.
There was one woman in particular Candace Tovar, who had been in tons of his shows, and she came out of retirement to do Big Deal with us. (I was 19 or 20 at the audition and she was 38 or 40—so ancient, right?) And there was such a camaraderie between them; just to watch her be so comfortable with him. During our rehearsals, she was his go-to. If he had to fill a spot, he knew she could do it. He would hold these little auditions for all of us and it was always that Candace ended up doing the bit.
But she was also able to interpret his movement in a way that blew my mind. There was a moment Stephanie Pope and I were book ends in “Beat Me Daddy’ [clip above] and it called for an improv moment (except it was choreographed), and we were doing it and he was getting so frustrated because we looked alike. He would say, ‘You two are doing it too similarly; this needs to be a moment where you are an individual. Watch Candace!’ And Candace does this 10 and I go, ‘That's not what he choreographed.’ And I realized in the moment I was seeing something spectacular that my young brain could not comprehend. It was so elevated from my own experience. I was a dancer who could do anything, but I couldn't do that. I couldn’t interpret his movement and make it my own. It’s always something that stuck with me. ‘I am young and I know nothing.’ It was one of those moments where you get completely broken down and all your training hasn't amounted to anything.
[Bob] was so caught up in making us all the best we could be. It really was a spectacular experience for such a young dancer, and it’s one reason I never have grieved getting injured during that show and not being able to dance like that again. There has never been an experience that can equal that.
See Tony winner Cady Huffman join Tony winners Randy Graff and Lillias White in Our Guy, Cy at 54 Below on May 15, 16 & 20.