Michael Bennett, the creator of A Chorus Line, is now considered one of Broadway’s greatest choreographers. However, his career began as one of the dancers or “gypsies” in the chorus of Broadway musicals. He was a rising star in the industry when he decided to put together a show that tells the story of the gypsies who he considered the unsung heroes of Broadway.
A Chorus Line and against all odds went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony for Best New Musical and numerous other accolades. It became a huge hit, marking the beginning of Times Square revival, which beckoned audiences back to Broadway. It still holds the Broadway record for the longest running musical produced in the United States with 6,137 performances. The London productions Phantom of the Opera (8,835), Cats (7,485) and Les Misérables (6,680) are the only shows to have had longer runs on Broadway.
A Chorus Line started as workshop “share” sessions. Michael Bennett organized a group of dancers to talk about their personal and professional lives. The sessions were tape-recorded, then written down. A Chorus Line took the dancers’ own words and in a powerfully simple setting – a bare Broadway stage – told their stories through words, song and, especially, dance. It was utterly unique. With A Chorus Line, Bennett incorporated what he called “cinematic staging.” There was constant “jump-cutting” as the audience’s attention was shifted from one figure to another. Bennett brought things into sudden focus as in a film through stage dissolves, close-ups, montages and wipes. Equally effective, creative and dramatic was Bennett’s use of mirrors in the show. It was musical staging that went beyond anything other musicals had ever presented.
Dancers kill themselves in a show.Michael Bennett
They’re always the low man on the totem pole.
They work like dogs, they get less money than
anybody else, and they don’t get any real credit.
I want to do a show where the dancers are the stars.