Michael Bennett Poster

Trivia (15)

Born just eight days after the premiere of "Oklahoma!" which is often cited as the first musical to properly incorporate theatre dance.

Dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to join a touring company of "West Side Story."

Danced in many Broadway shows including "Subways Are for Sleeping" (1961), "Here's Love" (1963) and "Bajour" (1964).

Won Broadway's Tony Award six times: as Best Director (Musical), along with collaborator Harold Prince, and as Best Choreographer, in 1972 for "Follies;" as Best Director (Musical) and Best Choreographer, along with Bob Avian, in 1976 for "A Chorus Line:"and as Best Choreographer, in 1974 for "Seesaw;" and in 1982, along with colaborator Michael Peters, for "Dreamgirls." He was also nominated ten other times: as Best Choreographer, in 1967 for "A Joyful Noise;" in 1968 for "Henry, Sweet Henry;" in 1969 for "Promises, Promises;" in 1970 for "Coco;" and in 1971 for "Company;" as Best Director (Musical) and Best Book (Musical), in 1974 for "Seesaw;" as Best Director (Musical) and Best Musical co-producer , in 1979 for "Ballroom;" and as Best Director (Musical) in 1982 for "Dreamgirls."

As director, co-producer, co-author and co-Choreographer of "A Chorus Line" the show won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Tony Award (8), and the Pulitzer Prize. The show ran until April 28, 1990, running for 6,137 performances.

Although the musical "Applause" introduced the first openly gay character in a show, Michael continued the trend and encouraged the appearances of gay characters in his shows as well, including "Seesaw" and "A Chorus Line."

Signed on as the director of "Chess" but had to withdraw in January of 1986 due to illness.

He died leaving a sizable portion of his estate to funding research to fight the AIDS epidemic.

Met Donna McKechnie while she was a dancer on the Hullabaloo (1965) TV program. She later played his leading lady in "A Chorus Line" and they married (very briefly) a year after its successful opening. His other primary heterosexual relationship was with a woman named Sabine Cassel, whom he promised to marry but didn't.

Well-known stage director, choreographer and dancer who reached his pinnacle with "A Chorus Line" in 1975, a semi-autobiographical tale of dancing Broadway gypsies.

During the rehearsals of "A Chorus Line", he was dancing with the cast when he suddenly collapsed and began to writhe and cry out in pain. Several dancers stood in shock, several ran to his side, a few ran for pain killers and Bob Avian ran to call an ambulance. Within a minute, Michael had jumped back up on his feet and told them to remember what they had just done and how they felt. He later had the cast use this experience for the famous scene in "A Chorus Line" where Paul falls and injures his knee, taking him out of the running for a spot on the line. Although several cast members were furious at him for this stunt, it worked.

Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 84-86. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.

Won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the musical "A Chorus Line" collaborating with Nicholas Dante, James Kirkwood Jr., Marvin Hamlisch and Ed Kleban.

The unnamed choreographer played by Richard Gere in And the Band Played On (1993) was based on him.

George Furth wrote eleven one-act plays planned for Kim Stanley as each of the separate leads. Hollywood actor Anthony Perkins, interested in directing, asked Stephen Sondheim to read the material. After Sondheim read the plays, Sondheim asked Harold Prince for his opinion; Harold Prince thought the plays would make the basis for a musical. The theme would be New York marriages with a central character to examine those marriages. Originally titled "Threes," its plot revolves around Bobby, a single man unable to commit fully to a steady relationship, let alone marriage, four married couples, and one single couple, who are his best friends, and the musical's additional roles include Bobby's three free-wheeling girl friends. Unlike most book musicals, which follow a clearly delineated plot, "Company" is a concept musical composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, linked by a celebration for Bobby's 35th birthday. "Company" was among the first musicals to deal with adult themes and relationships. As Sondheim puts it, "Broadway theater has been for many years supported by upper-middle-class people with upper-middle-class problems. These people really want to escape that world when they go to the theatre, and then here we are with 'Company' talking about how we're going to bring it right back in their faces." "Company" opened in Boston in out-of-town tryouts, receiving mixed reviews, from the Boston Evening Globe "Brilliant", to Variety Magazine "The songs are for the most part undistinguished" and "As it stands now it's for ladies' matinees, homos and misogynists." The book was by George Furth; Lyrics and music was by Stephen Sondheim; Direction was by Harold Prince. "Company" opened on April 26, 1970, at the Alvin Theatre in New York City, where it ran for 705 performances after seven previews. Musical staging was by Michael Bennett, assisted by Bob Avian. The set design by Boris Aronson consisted of two working elevators and various vertical platforms that emphasized the musical's theme of isolation. The role of Robert, originally performed by Dean Jones, is the central character; his 35th birthday brings the group together. The original cast included Dean Jones, who had replaced Anthony Perkins early in the rehearsal period when Perkins departed to direct a play. Shortly after opening night, Jones withdrew from the show, allegedly due to illness, but actually due to stress he was suffering from ongoing divorce proceedings. He was replaced by his understudy Larry Kert, who had created the role of Tony in Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim's 1957 Broadway musical "West Side Story." Larry Kert earned rave reviews for his performance when the critics were invited to return soon after opening night. The original Broadway cast included Donna McKechnie, Susan Browning, Pamela Myers, Barbara Barrie, Charles Kimbrough, Merle Louise, Beth Howland, and Elaine Stritch. "Company" was honored with the following theatre awards: the 1971 New York Drama Desk Award for (1) Outstanding Book of a Musical awarded to George Furth; (2) Outstanding Director of a Musical awarded to Harold Prince; (3) Outstanding Lyrics and (4) Outstanding Music awarded to Stephen Sondheim; (5) Outstanding Set Design was awarded to Boris Aronson. The New York Theatre World Award was presented to actor Susan Browning. In an unusual move, the Tony Awards committee deemed Larry Kert eligible for a nomination, an honor usually reserved for the actor who technically originates a role. The musical was nominated for a record setting 14 Tony Award Nominations and won six. "Company" won the (1) Tony Award for Best Musical; (2) Tony Award Best Score (music) and (3) Tony Award Best Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; (4) Tony Award Best Book of a Musical by George Furth; (5) Tony Award Best Direction for a Musical by Harold Prince; (6) Tony Award Best Scenic Design by Boris Aronson; Nominated for Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (7) Larry Kert; Nominated for Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (8) Elaine Stritch and (9) Susan Browning; Nominated for Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (10) Charles Kimbrough; Nominated for Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (11) Barbara Barrie and (12) Pamela Myers; Nominated for Tony Award Best Choreography (13) Michael Bennett; Nominated for Tony Award Best Lighting Design (14) Robert Ornbo. Note: In the early 1990s, Furth and Sondheim revised the libretto, cutting and altering dialogue that had become dated and rewriting the end to act one.