ONE SINGULAR SENSATION: The Michael Bennett Story by Kevin Kelly

ONE SINGULAR SENSATION: The Michael Bennett Story

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The second book in a year on choreographer Michael Bennett, his life, and his monumental smash hit, A Chorus Line. Kelly dismisses Ken Mandelbaum's A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett (p. 753) as ""a book. . .which would detail the hurt, humiliation, financial deprivation and lack of promised stardom among the original Chorus Line cast members . . ."" without even mentioning the book's author or title. This is an unfair characterization, especially since the Mandelbaum entry soft-pedals Bennett's private life aside from saying that terrific success made Bennett less accessible, more unrelenting. Kelly in turn focuses heavily on just what Mandelbaum left out: Bennett's viciousness, egomania, and towering capriciousness as a cocaine addict and alcoholic, along with hitter comments from Bennett's mother, tries at analysis by Bennett's younger brother Frank, and screeds from A Chorus Line's coauthors James Kirkwood (Diary of a Mad Playwright) and (uncredited) Nicholas Dante. Nearly everyone interviewed and Kelly himself tries hard to show Bennett in an at least partially redemptive light, but as the book gets past Bennett's childhood and youth in Buffalo and follows him to Broadway, the flow of detail about Bennett's alcoholic personality finally destroys the reader's interest in him: descriptions of him by his fellow workers, ex-wife, mistresses, and male lovers run together into a ceaseless railing by Bennett against everyone and everything that wasn't ""for him""--and by ""for him"" Bennett meant adding to a luster that puts him above Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse et al.--his peers and perhaps superiors. Kelly gets the most sympathy from Donna McKechnie (Bennett's short-term wife, whom he married to redeem his image) and Victoria Allen, his nurse during his final year, while he was dying from AIDS. Kelly himself, while indeed sympathetic, shows little understanding of the behavior of addicts and allows Bennett to defeat his own biographer by quoting endless hearsay and rant. Burns out about midway, though Bennett's last year is interesting.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Doubleday