Culture: Theatre

Beige Recommends: Donna McKechnie – Same Place, Another Time

Donna McKechnie

Donna McKechnie is part of Broadway history. She is a dancer, singer and survivor. She originated the character of Cassie for A Chorus Line in 1975 and the fantasy epic, Music and The Mirror, was written for her.

This week she presents a show looking back to those exciting, edgy and mythical times of mid seventies Manhattan.

She looked stunning as she made her glittering entrance. Her black sequin pant suit shimmered in the black and red Art Deco room, which was packed to the mirrored ceiling with many showbiz luminaries, including Barry Humphries, who all braved the cold to be warmed up by this genuine Broadway star.

Miss McKechnie devised her latest show during a trip to the newly opened New York cabaret venue ’54 Below’ which is situated directly beneath the legendary discotheque ‘Studio 54’. Once inside the venue, she was so inspired by the memories of the original club where she hung out with Liza, Mick and Bianca, she decided to create a show reflecting on that heady period when she was the Tony award winning toast of New York.

She has chosen an unpredictable selection of songs, some soft and sweet, some clever and funny.

Her voice is showbiz perfection as she performs Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Where or When’ which cleverly mixes into sublime disco classic, ‘Native New Yorker’. Unexpected delights, such as Carol Bayer Sager’s hit ‘He’s Moving Out Today’, nestle perfectly amongst some wonderful Sondheim obscurities. From ‘A Chorus Line’ she sings a mesmerising version of ‘At The Ballet’, which the late great Marvin Hamlisch wrote by incorporating recorded memories of Mckechnie’s own childhood.

This is not a saccharine show. All the hand picked songs represent something about her personal journey and life in the metropolis. She talks about the dangers of city life, visits to psychiatrists and  failed affairs, all delivered perfectly with her own self deprecating humour.

After her tremendous success in A Chorus Line, she was diagnosed with arthritis and told she would never dance again. That was in 1980. Now, 35 years later, she is still thrilling audiences with her unique talents. Strong, defiant and delightful. A true Broadway trouper.

Shows until 6 April.

Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood St, London, W1F 7ED.

Words: Martin Green

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