As an undergraduate at Oxford University, Michael Benthall met Robert Helpmann, who had been fulfilling an invitation to dance there. The two men formed a romantic relationship that was to last for 36 years, the couple living and working together quite openly until Benthall's death.
His first connection with the Old Vic was during the 1944 season when the company, owing to enemy action, had been forced to relocate to the New Theatre (now the Noël Coward Theatre).where Benthall directed a production of Hamlet jointly with Tyrone Guthrie. Benthall provided the scenario for two ballets by Arthur Bliss: Miracle in the Gorbals (1944), and Adam Zero (1946). He was artistic director of the Old Vic between 1953 and 1962, and produced all of the Shakespeare plays in the First Folio over five years.
A few years later, he directed I'm Solomon, a musical remake of an Israeli musical called King Solomon and Shalmai the Shoemaker ("Shlomo ha'Melech ve'Shalmai ha'Sandlar") that ran in Jaffa in the Summer of 1967. I'm Solomon starred Dick Shawn, Salome Jens and Carmen Mathews. Ernest Gold, who had written the score for the movie Exodus(1960) wrote the music. Geoffrey Holder choreographed the show. Benthall then directed Coco starring Katharine Hepburn with music by André Previn and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Michael Bennet chorographed the show. Benthall then directed Her First Roman, a musical version of George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra starring Lesley Uggams and Richard Kiley. Benthall was a close friend of Vivien Leigh for many years.
- BENTHALL, Michael Pickersgill, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2015; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014
- Old Vic Australian Tour 1955, M Benthall's biography in theatre programme.
- Tony Howard "Benthall, Michael Pickersgill" in Colin Chambers (ed.) The Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre, London: Continuum, 2002 , p.85
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