My first real understanding of the talent of Donna McKechnie came with the blessing of Blue Gobo and the clip which I have linked below. With great performances, you can read about them, but you never fully grasp them until you’ve seen them first hand. I love how when she belts out “The Music and the Mirror,” Cassie’s passion seeps out of every pore. You know exactly what this character wants more than anything, what struggle and pain she’s been facing, all for “the chance to dance.”
I also love her Sally on the Paper Mill Follies recording. Up until I heard this recording, I think somewhere in the back of my mind I had thought of Donna McKechnie as a dancer. Hearing her nuanced Sally, I learned Donna McKechnie was a true triple threat.
My other big encounter with McKechnie as an actress is on the OBCR of State Fair in which she plays Emily Arden. First of all, she’s very well sung, easily conquering those wonderful Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes. But what I love about it is that she gives Emily Arden such vulnerability. In the few songs on which McKechnie performs, she creates an Emily Arden who is sympathetic and struggling.
Most importantly, in getting to see McKechnie’s interview on the Broadway: The American Musical documentary and on the DVD bonus features, you can tell that she is a sincerely sweet person. My favorite interview snippet on the bonus features is McKechnie attempting to explain her relationship with Michael Bennett and the influence that had/didn’t have on the development of Cassie in A Chorus Line. It’s priceless. Because of these interesting interview snippets, high on my list of must-reads is her recent biography Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life.
I hope I someday get to see McKechnie on stage. It’s really sad that a talent like hers has been gone for so long from a Broadway stage.
the Broadway Mouth
September 6, 2007