Donna McKechnie’s ‘Same Place, Another Time’ at Olney Theatre Center by David Friscic

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Broadway legend Donna McKechnie wowed the crowd at her recent one-woman show  Same Place, Another Time at the Olney Theatre Center. This iconic star of such past hits such as Promises, Promises, Company, and A Chorus Line is a triple-threat performer who can sing, act and dance with the best of them. As the title suggests in her famous song from A Chorus Line, she is truly “One Singular Sensation.” Accompanied by acclaimed musician Ian Herman on the piano, McKechnie confidently belted over-the-top show-stoppers and alternated these powerhouse renditions with  a mix of popular standards and witty specialty songs.

Donna McKechnie. Photo: 2010 Blueprint Studios.

Donna McKechnie. Photo: 2010 Blueprint Studios.

McKechnie interspersed amusing, frank, and disarming anecdotes and lively patter throughout her show. Indeed, she is the living embodiment of the past decades of American Musical Theatre development and her very evolved and unique one-woman show is testament to this. Her undeniable and very versatile talent shown through every aspect of this intimate and engaging show.

McKechnie walked onto the stage wearing a gorgeous black sequined outfit singing an intriguing medley of “Where or When” and “Native New Yorker.” (Stunning musical arrangements are all by John McDaniel). She launched into an interesting account of being on-the-scene at the heyday of the infamous Studio 54 and mentioned the irony of recently appearing at the same site which has now been turned into a cozy cabaret venue called 54 Below.

McKechnie developed a very direct rapport with the audience throughout and this rapport was only intensified with her unabashed delightful exuberance when conveying tales of her life. These anecdotes and stories helped to endear this charismatic star to the audience and clearly showed her interesting mix of the cosmopolitan New Yorker and the down-to-earth storyteller. She threw her frank and disarming spirit behind lively psychological  ruminations on always wanting all or nothing, having to always choose between love and work – utilizing these ruminations as a spur to her question: could she be engaging in the masochist’s lament?  She then proceeded to propel herself into a wonderful interpretation of “I Never Know When to Say When.”

A large part of the appeal of McKechnie’s show was the fluid unpredictability of what she would say or perform next. She kept the audience listening with a very attentive ear to the uniquely intricate medley of the pain of separation that combined the insistent “You’re Moving Out” with the heartbreaking Marilyn and Alan Bergman standard “Where Do You Start?”

Donna McKechnie possesses an obvious theatrical tone to her phrasing and delivery combined with an almost wistful, plaintive tone, and this medley showed this to great effect.

After mentioning the excitement of auditioning for the legendary producer George Abbott and composer Stephen Sondheim for the National touring company of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, McKechnie gave an extremely fond and moving reminiscence about the kindness and talent of the late, lamented composer Marvin Hamlisch which naturally lead to an even deeper discourse on the honor and privilege she felt at being an original member of the cast of  A Chorus Line and what it meant to her personally. She spoke eloquently about what it meant to have a song written about her life and performing the show in four different countries. She then sang an evocative version of the A Chorus Line classic standard “At the Ballet,” starting slowly and building to a soaring climax.

Donna McKechnie is a  “Dancer’s Dancer,” having applied her craft from chorus line member to having the distinction of having solo dance numbers created for her in Company and A Chorus Line – so it only seemed natural that she might have an affinity for the legendary Fred Astaire. She described the joy of meeting her idol in person, dining with him, and even dancing with him in his living room – all this patter lovingly intertwined with a wry and amusing specialty musical number on her idol. This specialty number was certainly one of the highlights of McKechnie’s set.
McKechnie next launched into a deeply affecting medley of the song “Everyday Miracles” interspersed with a romantic rendition of Irving Berlin’s classic “I Got Lost in His Arms,” and, then, as the ultimate “Manhattan-ite” – she effectively belted out the humorous song, “Hate/Love New York” to sustained applause.

McKechnie closed her set with an extremely poignant and leisurely-paced cover of Jim Croce’s standard “Time In A Bottle” to a standing ovation

Technical Credit must be given to  Lighting Designer Nikki Conley for the vivid and effective spare back-lighting and to Sound Engineer Elvin J. Crispo for the very clear sound. Above all, kudos to Olney Theatre Artistic Management for presenting the supremely-talented Donna McKechnie at this venue.

Running Time: One Hour and five minutes.

Donna McKechnie’s Same Place, Another Time was performed on Sunday, September 1,2013 at Olney Theatre Center – 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, MD. For other events, see their schedule of shows and upcoming events.

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One Response to Donna McKechnie’s ‘Same Place, Another Time’ at Olney Theatre Center by David Friscic

  1. Jim McKechnie September 3, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    David,
    As one of Donna’s cousins, and a fan since she was practicing ballet in her parent’s basement, I cannot thank you enough for this wonderful review of her work and abilities.

    She is a wonderful individual and I could not be more pleased with your article on her show.

    Kudos to you!!

    Sincerely,

    Jim McKechnie