Donna McKechnie muses about her life in art, telling showbiz tales and singing theatre music, in a return engagement of her cabaret act, An Evening with Donna McKechnie: My Musical Comedy Life, Oct. 3-13 at Arci's Place in Manhattan.
The Tony Award-winning "Cassie" of 1975's A Chorus Line ended an extended, sold-out run of her cabaret show at Arci's on Aug. 11 and was immediately invited back for the fall booking. The cabaret show marked her return the world of cabaret after an absence of 14 years.
As with her current proscenium show, Inside the Music, the intimate Arci's evening also features songs and stories from Pontiac, MI, native McKechnie's varied career. In addition to starring in A Chorus Line, created by her onetime husband Michael Bennett, 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). Inside the Music has been in development for several years, tested in the regions and hoping for a Broadway berth. Why Broadway? Michigan native McKechnie is a creature of the Broadway theatre, having appeared in the original landmark productions of How to Succeed in Business..., Company and Promises, Promises. Inside the Music has text by Christopher Durang and direction by A Chorus Line's Thommie Walsh (who are not credited for the downsized cabaret evening).
Musical director Dennis Buck helms the music in both shows. At Arci's, it's a piano and voice gig. In the larger show, she's sung an danced to the accompaniment of piano, percussion and bass.
New York Times' chief drama critic, Ben Brantley, made a rare appearance in the cabaret realm and warmly reviewed McKechnie's summer gig at Arci's. The show pays homage to those who influenced McKechnie: Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett, Frank Loesser and Stephen Sondheim, among others. Admission is $30 with $15 food/drink minimum. Performances are 9 PM Tuesday-Thursday and 8:30 PM and 11 PM Friday and Saturday. For information or reservations for Arci's Place, 450 Park Avenue South, call (212) 532-4370.
McKechnie most recently sang, danced and told stories about her career in Inside the Music Oct. 2 at Paper Mill in Millburn, NJ, on the set of the theatre's current revival production of A Chorus Line. That 1975 landmark tuner made McKechnie a legend for helping give voice to the faceless kids who sweat and struggle in ensemble roles everywhere.
A live album of Inside the Music was recorded separately by the Fynsworth Alley label and is expected in the coming months.
— By Kenneth Jones