All she ever needed in A Chorus Line was "the music and the mirror," but these days Donna McKechnie is so busy with cabarets, concerts and musicals that you imagine she also needs a good night's rest and plenty of Vitamin C.
On Aug. 11, McKechnie — the Tony Award-winning "Cassie" of 1975's A Chorus Line — ends an extended, hot and sold-out run of her cabaret show,An Evening With Donna McKechnie: My Musical Comedy Life, at Arci's in Manhattan, but she'll return in October. She jets to San Francisco to perform Inside the Music, the full stage show on which the intimate cabaret evening is based. It plays Aug. 15-19 at The Alcazar Theatre in the city by the bay.
She then heads back to New York for rehearsals for the first revival of a musical version of William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba, which closed out of town in 1974. Lucille Lortel's White Barn Theatre in Westport, CT, mounts the obscure Lee Goldsmith-Clint Ballard tuner, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, with McKechnie playing frustrated wife Lola, whose husband is an alcoholic. Kaye Ballard originated the musical role.
McKechnie will then present Inside the Music Oct. 2 at Paper Mill in Millburn NJ, then return to Arci's Oct. 3-13 for a return of the cabaret show.
The intimate Arci's evening features songs and stories from Pontiac, MI, native McKechnie's varied career. In addition to starring in A Chorus Line, created by onetime husband Michael Bennett, McKechnie appeared in such landmark musicals as How to Succeed in Business, Promises, Promises and Company. She appeared in the stage version of State Fair on Broadway and has also played choice roles in regional theatre (Sally in Paper Mill's Follies, Desiree in North Shore Music Theatre's A Little Night Music). This is her first cabaret appearance since 1987. Thommie Walsh (McKechnie's fellow Chorus Line performer) directs both Inside the Music and the cabaret show. Musical director Phillip Fortenberry is on piano at Arci's.
McKechnie previewed her act at Arci's for one night in June and returned for this longer run July 24. The New York Times' chief drama critic, Ben Brantley, made a rare appearance in the cabaret realm and reviewed McKechnie warmly. There has long been a hope on McKechnie and company's part that Inside the Music would find a commercial berth on Broadway.
Sam Harris begins his new cabaret show at Arci's Aug. 14. For information about Arci's, 450 Park Avenue South between 30th and 31st Streets, call (212) 532-4370.
— By Kenneth Jones