Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
The Plaza Theatre recently presented Donna McKechnie in My Musical Comedy Life in their grand opening February 17-18. This one woman show, directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, is an entertaining tale of McKechnie's love of musical theatre and journey to success.
In an evening filled with music and dance, McKechnie tells of her love of the magic of movies as a child ("Just Go To The Movies") leading to her love of the stage. Tales of auditions ("Lovely") to parts played on stage ("You Could Drive a Person Crazy") are spiced with gentle stories of a few of the people with whom she's worked. This is no tell-all evening of back-stage gossip. McKechnie is every inch a lady of candor and class. The most endearing story is of her meeting Fred Astaire backstage one night and being swept away by his talent and charm ("Fred Astaire"). The most revealing moment is in her singing of the original version of "The Music and the Mirror" from A Chorus Line and how very different it is from the final version that helped showcase her talents so beautifully.
Yes, she still looks lovely, and her long limbs move with an elegance and grace that befits a dancer of her stature. Songs such as "In Buddy's Eyes" show the sensitive musicianship and acting maturity that is the product of her many years on stage. My Musical Comedy Life is a treasure shared with her audience, and hopefully there are more chapters ahead.
For those who don't know Donna McKechnie (though this seems hardly possible), she is musical theater dancer, singer, actress and choreographer best known for her role as Cassie, a character based in great part on herself, in the 1976 musical A Chorus Line, for which she earned the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. She is also known for her long-standing professional and personal relationship with choreographer Michael Bennett. The two worked together on numerous shows, married briefly, and remained friends till his death in 1987.
McKechnie made her Broadway debut at the age of 21 in the 1961 musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, followed by a job as a featured dancer on the NBC music series "Hullabaloo." In April 1968, McKechnie was back on Broadway in the short-lived The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N, which led to a featured role in Promises, Promises. In 1970, she appeared in Stephen Sondheim's Company.
The year 1976 brought the smash hit musical A Chorus Line for which she is so well known, but in 1980, McKechnie was diagnosed with arthritis and told she never would dance again. She pursued various physical, psychological and holistic healing remedies and was well enough to return to the Broadway company of A Chorus Line in 1986. Her career on stage continued to flourish with performances in national tours and London revivals. In the 1990s, she appeared Off-Broadway in a revue entitled Cut the Ribbons, the musical Annie Warbucks, and on Broadway in the revival of the musical State Fair, for which she received her second Drama Desk Award. In 2002, McKechnie starred in the pre-Broadway production of the Jerry Herman musical revue Showtune.
Her television work included a regular role on the Gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows" early in her career, and after her rise to fame, guest appearances on "Scarecrow and Mrs. King," "Rowan & Martin's Laugh In" and "Cheers," plus the role of Suzi Laird on several episodes of "Fame." Her autobiography, Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life, written with Greg Lawrence, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2006, just weeks before the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line opened on October 5th.
The Plaza Theatre is located in the Plaza del Mar, at 262 S. Ocean Blvd., in Manalapan, Florida. It is a 252-seat, not-for-profit theatre, employing local and non-local actors and actresses. The Plaza Theatre also has a full performing arts conservatory offering private lessons, classes and productions for students age 7-18. For tickets and information you may contact the theatre by phone at 561-588-1820, or visit www.theplazatheatre.net.
Cast: Donna McKechnie