My good close personal friend- dancer, Walter Kennedy has stories to tell. He once was faced the choice of touring in A Chorus Line or becoming a company member of a very famous Modern Dance Company.
James Kirkwood, co-author of A Chorus Line, said: "Michael would do anything...anything to get a show on. The cruelty was extensive. & not just in his professional life. He was amoral."
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, my favorite drug of the 1970s- 1980s, 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.
I have it on good authority that Bennett was a son-of-a bitch... but a genius of a son-of-a-bitch.