DONNA MCKECHNIE IN “MY MUSICAL COMEDY LIFE”   Leave a comment

The house lights come down and the stage lights come up to reveal Alex Rybeck at the piano, Dave Wilkinson on the bass and George Mazzeo on drums and as they start playing you hear Donna McKechnie backstage singing “Everything Is Coming Up Roses” and 30 seconds later she comes swirling from behind the curtain in a red dress and everything IS coming up roses for me!

   

     She talks, and sings, about her life in show business from running away from home to Broadway, getting a role in “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” and her attaining recognition from critics for her dancing in the “Turkey Lurkey Time” number in “Promises, Promises”–the show I saw her in  during a snowstorm in New York city in February 1969. She briefly, one liners, talks about her battle with arthritis and her divorce but mainly she sings songs from shows she has been in like “Company”, “Follies”,  “State Fair”,  being taught by the original Charity, Gwen Verdon, when she was doing a revival, also talking about Ann Miller, not name dropping but telling about people she has worked with.


And then, much too soon in her act, we, her audience, see her at the age of 35, all of us 37 years younger and “Cassie” is on stage. She sings the original song, “Inside The Music”, that Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban, wrote for her, segueing into the show stopper it would become called “The Music and The Mirror” where for 8 1/2 minutes she held the Shubert Theatre audience (and many others in the following years) spellbound as she acted, sang and danced in  a role that would earn her a Tony Award.

I remember sitting in the second row of the Shubert’s mezzanine and being taken in by her for all she was doing but even more so identifying with the words of the song and how she felt. Now, in 2012, I am once again mesmerized by Donna McKechnie as Cassie in “A Chorus Line” and my eyes fill with tears as it always does when I hear this number. I remember sitting in the Shubert on September 29, 1983, when “A Chorus Line” became the longest running show on Broadway, and once again she did “The Music and the Mirror” with other ‘Cassies’ but none moving like her and certainly none moving me like she did.


She went on to sing about “Lies Of Handsome Men” and a medley about the movies but I was stuck on her “Music and the Mirror”. Sure she doesn’t move like she did but she gives the illusion of doing just that. It’s not the full 8 and 1/2 minutes but in my head, as she moved and sang, I saw her doing it all.


The show ended too soon. It was suppose to have been 90 minutes but only ran about 70. I suppose with the opening the night before, where she signed autographs for all 250 people that were there, then doing the master class this afternoon and now this evening show she may have been drained of energy but she didn’t show it. I was hoping she would do the signing again but that was not to be.


For her encore, and final number, she did a tribute to Fred Astaire and told her story of meeting him the first time. She has told it thousands of times over the years, and has added a little to the story  each time, but it felt as if she was telling it for the first time. You could see the thrill she felt when he asked her to dance and held out his hand to take hers. She was a fan who was tongue-tied, in awe, at meeting her idol and that is how she left her audience.

THANK YOU DONNA MCKECHNIE FOR ALL THE JOY, AND TEARS, YOU HAVE GIVEN ME OVER THE YEARS AND BEING HERE, IN MY LEAP YEAR BIRTHDAY MONTH, FOR ME—AND NO ONE WILL CONVINCE ME OTHERWISE. IT IS A DAY AND EVENING I WILL NEVER FORGET.

Posted February 23, 2012 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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