McKechnie, Donna 1942(?)-
McKechnie, Donna 1942(?)-
Born November 16, 1942 (some sources say 1940 or 1944), in Pontiac, MI (some sources say Detroit, MI); married Al Schwartz (an entertainment promoter), 1965 (marriage ended); married Michael Bennett (a dancer, choreographer, and director), December, 1976 (divorced, 1977).
Writer, dancer, choreographer, singer, and actor. Performer in stage productions, including How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, 46th Street Theatre, 1961; The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N, Alvin Theatre, New York, NY, 1968; Promises, Promises, Shubert Theatre, New York, NY, 1968; Company, Alvin Theatre, 1970, then Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, 1971; On the Town, Imperial Theatre, New York, NY, 1971; Company, Her Majesty's Theatre, 1972; Sondheim: A Musical Tribute, Shubert Theatre, 1973; Music! Music!, City Center Theatre, New York, NY, 1974; A Chorus Line, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, New York, NY, 1975; Wine Untouched, Harold Clurman Theatre, New York, NY, 1979; A Chorus Line, Shubert Theatre, 1986; Annie Get Your Gun, CA and FL productions, 1987; Can-Can, London, 1987; Cut the Ribbons, Westside Theatre, New York, NY, 1992; Company: The Original Cast in Concert, Long Beach, CA, and Vivian Beaumont Theatre, New York, NY, 1993; Fiorello!, City Center Theatre, 1994; Annie Warbucks, Variety Arts Theatre, New York, NY, 1993-94; State Fair, Music Box Theatre, New York, NY, 1996; The Goodbye Girl, Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, PA, 1997; Follies, Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, NJ, 1998; Babes in Arms, City Center Theatre, 1999; Ginger, 2000; A Little Night Music, North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly, MA, 2000; Mack and Mabel, Los Angeles, 2000; An Evening with Donna McKechnie: My Musical Comedy Life, Arci's Place, New York, NY, 2001; Sheba, Lucille Lortel's White Barn Theatre & Museum, Westport, CT, 2001; Follies, Wadsworth Theater, Los Angeles, 2002; Singular Sensations, Village Theatre, New York, NY, 2003; Follies in Concert, Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MI, 2003; Mack & Mabel, Goodspeed Musicals, 2004; and Gypsy in My Soul, London, 2004. Major tours include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, 1963-64; Call Me Madam, 1968; A Chorus Line, 1975; Sweet Charity, 1987; Inside the Music, 1993-2003; My Musical Life, 2003; and Gypsy in My Soul, beginning 2004. Actress in films, including Billie, United Artists, 1965; Original Cast Album-Company, Docurama, 1970; The Little Prince, Paramount, 1974; Twirl, NBC, 1981; Breakin' Through, 1984; and Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There, Dada Films, 2003. Actress in television programs, including Hullabaloo, 1965-66; Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, 1967; N.Y.P.D., ABC, 1968; Dark Shadows, 1969; Cheers, NBC, 1982; Family Ties, NBC, 1983; Fame, syndicated, 1984, 1985; Scarecrow and Mrs. King, CBS, 1986; Faerie Tale Theatre, Showtime, 1987; and Loving, 1993. Performer on musical recordings, including Rodgers & Hammerstein's State Fair: The New Musical, Original Broadway Cast Recording, 1996; and Little Prince, 2004.
Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award, 1976, and Drama Desk Award, both for best actress in A Chorus Line; Fred Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer, 1996, for State Fair; Ovation Award nomination, L.A. Theater Alliance League, 2001, for best featured actress in Mack and Mabel; Backstage Bistro Award for Outstanding Major Engagement for My Musical Comedy Life.
(With Christopher Durang) Inside the Music (play), produced in the United States, 1993.
Gypsy in My Soul (play), produced in London, England, 2004.
(With Greg Lawrence) Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life (memoir), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
Tony Award-winning dancer, singer, choreographer, and performer Donna McKechnie recounts her long and illustrious career in her memoir Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life. "Part rags-to-riches-to-back-from-the-brink memoir, part self-help book, Time Steps is McKechnie's gaze back at a life with all the acclaim-filled highs, as well as lows, one might expect from a soap-operatic Broadway musical," commented reviewer Andrew Marton in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
McKechnie relates her early life and upbringing in Michigan. She had an unhappy childhood living with an emotionally troubled mother and a father who was still feeling the effects of his wartime experiences. At fifteen, rebellious and obsessed with dance and performance, McKechnie left home to seek a career. Her talent and dedication brought her early successes, and she performed in a touring production even before graduating high school. In her memoir, McKechnie tells how she broke into Broadway productions and reminisces about successful performances in shows such as Promises, Promises, Company, and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. She dwells on her career highs, including her work in A Chorus Line, revealing that her own life served as the basis for the musical's well-received character of Cassie. Throughout, McKechnie stresses the collaborative nature of musical theatre and never fails to credit her coworkers and fellow performers for their contributions to shows that helped refine her reputation. In this regard, remarked Dance Magazine reviewer Wendy Perron, McKechnie's memoir is "an eloquent tribute to the group chemistry that creates the magic of musicals."
Though her personal and professional life was filled with soaring triumphs, McKechnie also frankly relates many personal and emotional struggles, such as her ill-fated marriage to Michael Bennett, the director and choreographer of A Chorus Line. The two were close friends during the creation and performance of the production, but their unexpected marriage was turbulent, and at its end her career was in shambles. The bisexual Bennett later died of AIDS, and it was reported that he refused to see McKechnie again, even on his deathbed.
In later years, McKechnie was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and was told that she would never walk again, much less dance. In the wake of this devastating diagnosis, she suffered depression. However, unwilling to accept the possibility of the end of her career, she sought psychotherapy and undertook a strict, healthy, cleansing diet. These steps allowed her to overcome her physical and emotional impairments, permitting a triumphant return to the role of Cassie in a 1985 revival of A Chorus Line.
In her memoir, McKechnie "reviews with remarkable candor the many highs and lows of a long, varied career," reported Jack Helbig in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly reviewer observed, "Her story is one of fierce drive and determination."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Almanac of Famous People, 8th edition, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 64, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2005.
McKechnie, Donna, and Greg Lawrence, Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
Booklist, September 1, 2006, Jack Helbig, review of Time Steps, p. 35.
Dance Magazine, October, 2006, Wendy Perron, review of Time Steps, p. 80.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 20, 2006, Andrew Marton, "A Chorus Line Star Embraces All Life's Stages," profile of Donna McKechnie.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2006, review of Time Steps, p. 714.
Miami Herald, October 12, 2006, Steve Rothaus, "An ‘Upset’ Turned into a Singular Sensation," profile of Donna McKechnie.
New York Times Book Review, September 3, 2006, Hanna Rubin, "Dancing Queen," review of Time Steps, p. 21.
Playbill, August 18, 2006, Andrew Gans, "Diva Talk," interview with Donna McKechnie.
Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006, review of Time Steps, p. 154.
WWD, November 16, 2006, Lorna Koski, "She's the One," interview with Donna McKechnie, p. 9.
Brainy History,http://www.brainyhistory.com/ (March 4, 2007), biography of Donna McKechnie.
Donna McKechnie Home Page,http://www.donnamckechnie.com (March 4, 2007).
Internet Broadway Database,http://www.ibdb.com/ (March 4, 2007), biography of Donna McKechnie.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (March 4, 2007), filmography of Donna McKechnie.
Tony Awards Web site,http://www.tonyawards.com/ (March 4, 2007).