b. USA. Early in her career Birch was a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company, and in the late 50s was also in Brigadoon and Goldilocks before going into West Side Story in 1960. After turning to choreography, she staged musical numbers for The Me Nobody Knows (1970), You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (1971) and Grease (1972), for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. She was choreographer on A Little Night Music (1973), Over Here! (1974), also Tony-nominated, Candide (1974), Pacific Overtures (1976), and Music Is (1977), the latter two also Tony nominated. Birch also directed Happy End (1977). She choreographed They’re Playing Our Song, which ran for 1, 082 performances, and Zoot Suit (both 1979). She choreographed Gilda Radner - Live From New York (1979), and choreographed and directed Raggedy Ann, which had a three-day run in October 1986. In the late 80s and early 90s, she staged musical numbers for Rosa (1987), Welcome To The Club (1989) and Anna Karenina (1992). The late 90s saw her choreographing a revival of Candide (1997) and for Parade (1998) she was again nominated for a Tony and won the Astaire Award. In 1999 she conceived, choreographed and co-directed, with Susan Feldman, Band In Berlin, about the German vocal group, the Comedian Harmonists. The show ran for only two weeks.
Birch has also worked on several films as choreographer, sometimes for individual musical scenes in straight dramas, other times extensively for musicals or music-dominated films. Her film work includes Roseland (1977), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, A Little Night Music and Grease (all 1978), Gilda Live (1980, a film version of Gilda Radner’s stage show on which Birch had previously worked), Zoot Suit (1981, a straight filming of the stage show), Grease 2 (1982, which Birch also directed), Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark and Big (both 1988), Stella (1990), Sleeping With The Enemy andBilly Bathgate (both 1991), Used People and This Is My Life (both 1992), North and The Cowboy Way (both 1994), The First Wives Club (1996), The Human Stain (2003), and The Stepford Wives (2004). On television Birch directed Natalie Cole: Unforgettable, Celebrating Gershwin and Dance In America, winning Emmy Awards for the first two, and she frequently staged numbers on Saturday Night Live. She has choreographed and directed videos for pop artists such as Cyndi Lauper, the Rolling Stones and Carly Simon.