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2013 Tony Awards Clip Countdown: #7 - Michael Bennett Masterpieces


Today we are continuing BroadwayWorld's 2013 Tony Awards Clip Countdown with a special spotlight focused on a multi-Tony Award-winning choreographer, director and performer who was involved with many landmark musicals of the 20th century - Michael Bennett.

At The Ballet

While Michael Bennett may not have had as identifiable a choreographic style as Bob Fosse, nor did he enjoy a long career as director emeritus on Broadway and beyond like Hal Prince or rise to the highest ranks of ballet like his idol, Jerome Robbins, yet, in his relatively short time on the Great White Way he had a hand in crafting some of the most legendary and iconic musicals of the last fifty years. Besides his choreographic work on PROMISES, PROMISES, COCO, A JOYFUL NOISE and others, Bennett also performed dance duties on the landmark Stephen Sondheim/George Furth concept musical COMPANY, directed by Hal Prince, as well as the follow-up, FOLLIES, which he co-directed with Prince. After that, Bennett began his ascent to the top-tier of director/choreographers on Broadway during the 1970s and 1980s, after taking the reigns of the troubled SEESAW out of town and bringing it to Broadway as a relative hit - winning a Tony Award for Best Choreography in the process (check out the full 1974 Tony Awards in a previous 2013 Tony Awards Clip Countdown entry, available here, as well as two other tributes to Bennett leading up to today with the DREAMGIRLS spotlight (available here) and A CHORUS LINE spotlight (available here)).

Then came A CHORUS LINE. A musical experience like none other, the show won not only the Tony Award for Best Musical, but, also, the coveted Pulitzer Prize in 1976 - as well as Best Director and Best Choreographer Tonys for Bennett (and, in the latter case, for Bob Avian, as well; pictured together above). Following that up would be pretty much impossible to do - A CHORUS LINE was the pinnacle. Yet, Bennett contributed strong work with the Dorothy Loudon-led BALLROOM to close out the decade, and, in 1982 unveiled his most audacious musical to date, the near-operatic R&B epic DREAMGIRLS. DREAMGIRLS won Bennett yet another Tony Award (for Best Choreography, shared with Michael Peters) and in that musical he created yet another coup de theatre moment on the level of "Turkey Lurkey Time" in PROMISES, PROMISES, "Always Mademoiselle" in COCO, "Who's That Woman?" in FOLLIES, "Side By Side" in COMPANY and the stunning opening and "One" finale of A CHORUS LINE (and the rest) - if we are to list six or so of his finest single sequences in any shows prior to that - with the showstopping final moments of the first act, including the dramatic "It's All Over" build-up and ensuing diva anthem to top all diva anthems, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" and its huge ending, sung to Tony-winning success - and musical theatre history - by the one and only Jennifer Holliday.

While Bennett's work on CHESS was unfortunately never realized and SCANDAL never saw the lights of Broadway, Bennett made a major mark with DREAMGIRLS and ended his career on an incredible high. He died of AIDS as the '80s ended, having had one of the brightest double-decade runs of any theatrical artist ever.

Michael Bennett was truly one singular sensation.

The 2013 Tony Awards air Sunday, June 9, at 8 PM on CBS. More information is available at the official site here.

It's Not Where You Start...

So, now, let's take a look at some of the very best Michael Bennett moments from the Tony Awards telecasts of yore.

First up, one of the greatest Tony Awards performances of all time - the cast of PROMISES, PROMISES and the rousing, rollicking and rapturous "Turkey Lurkey Time" in 1969. Now, that's how it's done!

Julie Andrews introduces an extensive segment from COCO, starring Katharine Hepburn and featuring one of Michael Bennett's earliest unforgettable musical theatre moments with "Always Mademoiselle". Wow!

The original cast of COMPANY reunites in 1993 for a special concert - complete with full recreation of the title opening number (more or less).

Michele Lee leads a medley of tunes from SEESAW, which Bennett won a Best Choreography Tony Award for in 1974.

Alexis Smith leads the swanky and witty "The Story Of Lucy & Jessie" from FOLLIES (for which Bennett won a Best Choreography and Best Direction Tony, the latter shared with Hal Prince) on the 1975 Tony Awards.

Enjoy Michael Bennett's Tony Awards acceptance speeches when winning Best Director, as well as Best Choreographer (shared with Bob Avian) in 1976 for A CHORUS LINE.

Dorothy Loudon commits a memorable "Fifty Percent" from BALLROOM on the Tony telecast in 1979.

Watch this touching tribute to Michael Bennett at the 1988 Tony Awards, hosted by Angela Lansbury, including a performance by the DREAMGIRLS themselves as well as Tony-winning A CHORUS LINE star Donna McKechnie.

So, what Michael Bennett musical is your favorite of all? Is A CHORUS LINE the one you will always love the most or could DREAMGIRLS take top honors for you in the end - and, what about his work on COMPANY, FOLLIES and PROMISES, PROMISES? What moment wows you the absolute most? Impressive all, no doubt! What an incredible array of shows, scores, stars and showstoppers!

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