Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dance in Musicals: Part 5—The Concept Musical

The History of Dance in Musicals continues...

Michael Bennett started his Broadway career as a chorus dancer. He delved into choreography with five shows, for which he earned Tony nominations: A Joyful Noise (1966); Henry Sweet Henry (1967); Promises, Promises (1968); Coco (1969) and Company (1970). In 1971, he finally won two Tonys for his choreography and co-direction in Follies (1971), a musical about aging performers.

Working with interviews from Broadway chorus dancers, Bennett created a libretto with Nicolas Dante and James Kirkwood to create the concept musical A Chorus Line (1975). Concept musicals were built around an idea rather than a traditional plot. The concept of this musical was based on a Broadway chorus audition, with a director who asks the dancers to share their stories to be hired. The musical featured ensemble numbers with tight formations, kick lines, mirrors and sparking gold costumes. Bennett used “cinematic staging” or “jump-cutting” in his choreography that shifted the audience’s attention from one figure to another. The musical was a success that appealed to all ages and musical tastes, winning nine Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (Kenrick, “Michael Bennett's A Chorus Line”).

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