Michael Bennett, choreographer, director and producer of the long-running Broadway hit musical Dreamgirls – which made stars out of Jennifer Holliday and Sheryl Lee Ralph – died recently of AIDS at his home in Tucson, Ariz. He was 44 years old.
Dreamgirls, the story of a Black vocal trio's climb to stardom, opened in 1981. The production, thought to be based on the Supremes, won six Tony awards, in 1982, including best actress (Jennifer Holliday) and best choreographer (Bennett and Michael Peters).
The show left Broadway in 1985, but recently returned to the Great White Way after a two-year tour abroad. Known for its fabulous costumes, dazzling score and creative sets, Dreamgirls was the vehicle that brought Ms. Holliday and Ms. Ralph to prominence.
A native of Houston, Ms. Holliday had only appeared briefly on Broadway in Your Arms Too Short To Box with God. She became a sensation as the forlorn Effie with her impassioned hit tune “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” The powerhouse vocalist went on to a successful solo recording career with such hits as “Hard Time For Lovers” and “I Am Love.”
Since playing Deena Jones, lead singer of the Dreams, Ms. Ralph has gone on to build an acting career on television in the dramatic series “Code Name Fox Fire” and with the signing of a million dollar contract for the syndicated sitcom “It’s A Living.”
Phylicia Rashad, who stars on America’s favorite situation comedy “The Cosby Show,” also had her career take off after working in Bennett’s Dreamgirls. Ms. Rashad was a chorus girl in the original show before winning the roles in the No. 1 rated TV show and the soap opera “One Life To Live.”
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