Born Michael Bennett DiFiglia, April 8th, 1943, in Buffalo NY, Michael Bennett performed in the chorus of Broadway musicals starting in 1961. In the mid-1960s he was a featured dancer on the NBC pop music series Hullabaloo, where he met fellow dancer Donna McKechnie.
In 1968, he choreographed the hit musical Promises, Promises on Broadway. With a pop score by Burt Bacharach, the show ran for 1,281 performances.As a director or choreographer, Bennett produced first class work & strong reviews for the play Twigs with Sada Thompson & the musical Coco with Katharine Hepburn. These were followed by groundbreaking work in 2 Stephen Sondheim shows-Company & Follies co-directed with Hal Prince.
From 1968's Promises, Promises
In 1973, Bennett was asked by the producers to take over the troubled Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields musical Seesaw. When he replaced director Ed Sherin & choreographer Grover Dale, he asked for absolute control over the production as director & choreographer & received credit as "having written, directed, & choreographed" the musical.
The process of taking over the troubled Seesaw on the road, convinced Bennett the usual way of developing musicals: rehearsals, out-of-town tryouts, previews, & then a Broadway opening was not efficient & he developed a better way of developing a show.
He devised a show about the lives of chorus boys & girls, but rather than commission a script, he let the story come together from a series of group therapy style workshops in which dancers shared their feelings & frustrations about their careers. Hours of audio tapes eventually led to the creation of his biggest & most personal triumph- A Chorus Line, which opened in July 1975 at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre. The reviews were over the top & the show transferred to the Shubert Theater Broadway, where it would play for 15 years. It won 9 Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, & the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
In the early 1980s, Bennett worked on various projects, but except for Dreamgirls, none of them reached the stage. His addictions to alcohol & drugs: cocaine & Quaaludes, affected his work & impacted his professional & personal relationships.
Donna McKechnie & Bennett were married in December 1976& divorced 4 months later. His relationships with men included long affairs with dancers Larry Fuller, Scott Pearson, Richard Christopher, & Gene Pruitt, his last lover. He retired to Arizona with Pruitt & died on July 2, 1987 at 44, of HIV related illness. Bennett left most of his estate to funding research to fight the AIDS epidemic.