Triple-threat Donna McKechnie, the Tony-winning singer-actress-dancer, will star in a production of Gypsy this November at the University of Richmond's Modlin Center. McKechnie, who is best known for her award winning work as Cassie in the original Broadway company of A Chorus Line, will be an artist-in-residence at the Virginia university in the fall.
In addition to playing Mama Rose in a production directed by Dorothy Holland — the University's Assistant Professor of Theatre — McKechnie will also perform her critically acclaimed one-woman show, "An Evening with Donna McKechnie: My Musical Comedy Life." Reached by phone from Virginia, director Holland seemed quite excited to work with the Broadway actress. "I am thrilled to be directing [Donna in Gypsy]. The director of our dance program, Myra Daleng, knows Donna," Holland explained, "and people who I know who have worked with her, say that she is absolutely the best, just wonderful to work with."
Asked whether she has ever staged a production of the Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents musical, Hollands admits she has not, "but I just finished directing Mother Courage, so it really is a year of strong women! I haven't seen a production of Gypsy in a while," Holland continued, "but I'm going to be very interested to see the new one that's coming to New York with Sam Mendes directing." As reported on Playbill On Line, Bernadette Peters will star in a new production helmed by Sam Mendes for a January 2003 opening.
McKechnie, who won't be teaching any courses while at the University, will take part in some sort of seminar/question-and-answer session about her career and her role in Gypsy. Holland, who has worked at the University for the past three years, says Gypsy is "right up my alley because I really love women in theatre. I developed a course here [about women in theatre] . . . Gypsy is a wonderful piece because it talks about the sexualization of women, the commodification of women and yet women empowering themselves by using what the culture — what's out there. [Rose] is just a fabulous character. For many reasons, I'm very happy to direct the show."
In addition to A Chorus Line, McKechnie's numerous theatrical credits include Follies; State Fair; How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; The Education of Hyman Kaplan; On the Town; Promises, Promises; and Company. McKechnie recently recorded her one woman show, which is due out shortly on the Fynsworth Alley label. Founded in 1830, the University of Richmond is located in Richmond, Virginia. For more information, go to http://www.urich.edu.
—By Andrew Gans