Donna McKechnie, the Tony Award winning star of A CHORUS LINE, is regarded internationally as one of Broadway’s foremost dancing and singing leading ladies.
Most recently she created the musical staging for a production of IN SIX DANCE LESSONS SIX WEEKS starring Leslie Caron at the Laguna Playhouse which has received a rave review from the Los Angeles Times.
Donna is also co-starring in a new production called 4 GIRLS 4 with Maureen McGovern, Andrea McCardle and Faith Prince produced by Wayne Gmitter and John McDaniel.
Donna appeared at 54 Below, New York’s celebrated Supper Club, presenting SAME PLACE: ANOTHER TIME, her new musical show in which she received a glowing review from the New York Times. She then performed it in London at the Crazy Coqs and the recording of the show is produced by Jay Records and will be released in 2014. Last year she co-starred in LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE at the Asolo Theatre in Sarasota, and before, in John Doyle’s TEN CENTS A DANCE at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J., and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
Her Broadway shows include HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM,(NAT’L TOUR), THE EDUCATION OF H*Y*M*A*N-K*A*P*L*A*N, SONDHEIM- A MUSICAL TRIBUTE(which she also choreographed),ON THE TOWN, PROMISES-PROMISES, COMPANY and STATE FAIR, for which she received the Fred Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer for the 1996 Season. She was also featured in ANNIE WARBUCKS and LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE in New York productions.
She has starred in numerous productions in London’s West End, including PROMISES-(PROMISES, COMPANY, NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY (which she also choreographed), Cole Porter’s CAN-CAN and Stephen Sondheim’s FOLLIES.
Bob Fosse invited Ms. McKechnie to play the lead in his last production, a National tour of SWEET CHARITY, for which she was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award. Donna’s regional credits include THE GLASS MENAGERIE, THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES (with River City Rep), IRMA LA DOUCE, CABARET, THE IMAGINARY INVALID, THE THREE PENNY OPERA, THE GOOD-BYE GIRL, FOLLIES, MACK AND MABEL, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, GYPSY, I DO-I DO!, MISALLIANCE, STEPPING OUT, GIRL’S ROOM, and INSIDE THE MUSIC, (her one woman musical with text by Christopher Durang).
The New York Times review of her cabaret show,, GYPSY IN MY SOUL compared her to “legends Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon as a brass- knuckled trouper with a heart of gold in a breezy, happy to be here celebration.”
Donna’s one woman musical, MY MUSICAL COMEDY LIFE received unanimous raves from New York theatre critics, won a Mac Award Nomination for Best Female Singer and the Bistro Award for Outstanding Major Engagement. She also received a nomination for an Ovation Award for Best Featured Actress (MACK AND MABEL) by the Los Angeles Theatre Alliance League. She made her Opera debut in 1996, guest starring in the San Francisco Opera’s production of DIE FLEDERMAUS.
Donna has also performed extensively on the concert stage and with symphony orchestras. She has appeared as guest star in numerous television specials and dramatic series including HBO SHOWSTOPPERS, FAME, CHEERS, FAMILY TIES, HULLABALOO,TWIRL, and DARK SHADOWS. She also portrayed THE ROSE in the film THE LITTLE PRINCE.
One of the highlights of her recent professional life was to choreograph the highly acclaimed GUYS AND DOLLS at the Hollywood Bowl directed by Richard Jay-Alexander.
Two seasons ago she opened the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and completed her first tour of Australia performing My MUSICAL COMEDY LIFE, also directed by Mr. Alexander.
Ms . McKechnie’s memoir, TIME STEPS- My Musical Comedy Life, was published by Simon and Schuster.
Donna was featured in the documentary film, EVERY LITTLE STEP and was also featured in the film, 36 SAINTS.
MUSICAL THEATRE PERFORMANCE CLASS
This class addresses the personal and unique expression of the individual in the solo performance of a song through a series of acting based exercises for relaxation, sense memory, emotional recall and breathing, thus enabling the student to give every song a personal point of view, to more fully engage an audience and to have a clearer understanding of the process.
The objective is to help the student integrate, through this organic approach, his or her physical and emotional life, and therefore enhancing the vocal production and interpretation.
The group dynamic plays a very important part in this class. Students are able to witness the transformative and successful result of the soloist when he or she has made an emotional connection, shown more clarity of choice and impulse, and vocal improvement.
The inhibitions that stop or hurt an artist’s efforts to communicate and commit fully are dealt with through comprehensive instruction on how to make specific choices in order to find the freedom to feel and be spontaneous in performance.
This class technique is based on my own dramatic training with Uta Hagen, Warren Robertson, Larry Moss, and the Actor’s Studio.
My vocal training with Maurice Jampol, Paul Gavert, Marge Rivingston and Judith Farris has given me an important and fundamental comprehension of voice production.
In 1979 Herbert Bergof gave me the first opportunity to teach at his HB Studio in New York City. I have had wonderful opportunities, while performing all over the country, to teach Master Classes in many colleges and Performing Arts Schools, including, Pepperdine University, University of Michigan, Cincinnati Conservatory, Boston University, Harvard, Interlochen, New York University and to the Annual Conventions for Musical Theatre Students in Tampa, Florida and Houston, Texas.
Musical Theatre Performance Notes
Your voice is you.
Any inhibitions, tension and restrictions you may have will be reflected and revealed in your voice.
Allow your presence to be big and full. The song is small, like an article of clothing, another dimension of you.
You are more important than the song, than the words, yet the song must be clear, illuminated.
Every song is a communication.
Look at the scene and/or song objectively first, before making subjective choices.
What is the song about?
What is the event or situation in the song?
Where is it taking place?
What has just happened that motivates dramatic action? (life before)
To whom are you singing?
What do you want or need?
What do you “do” to get what you want? By what means? How? (the intention is always a verb…seduce, confront, coax, threaten, implore, invite, challenge, ect.)
What are the obstacles? (create dramatic tension)
Do you succeed or fail in achieving objective?
What does the lyric tell you about the character?
What does the feel of the music tell you about what the character is feeling? (condition)
Plot is story.
Story is an interaction of characters.
Actions are either physical, verbal, psychological, or a combination of all three.
They must travel toward a target in order to interact with the physical, verbal, and psychological actions of others.
And what is done to you by someone or something, causes your responses, your sensations and your feelings, about which you will want to do the next thing. (give and take)
Other Key Words or Actions……….Charm, Demand, Plead, Protest, Beg, Accost, Command, Subdue, Titillate, Tantalize, Torment, Urge, Excite, Intimidate, Allure, Pacify, Flatter, Encourage, Inspire, Shame, Humor, Tease, Alarm, Hassle, Goad, Irritate, Provoke, Delay, Compromise, Placate, Cajole, Patronize, Vilify, Rouse, Quash, Inflame, Assault, Surmount, Bait, Beguile, Impress, Mystify, Bewitch, Terrify, Threaten, Please, Dazzle, Deflate, Inflate, Defy, Harass…..ect.
Suggested reading….A Challenge for the Actor, by Uta Hagen, published by Charles Scribner’s and Sons.