"Acting comes first," says singer-dancer Donna McKechnie, when asked what makes a great dancer. "I think any inspired performance grows from acting — that's what I connect with. The first important dancer I ever saw was Alicia Alonso in ‘Swan Lake,' and what impressed me most was the profound emotional life she brought to the role." McKechnie, an energetic, ebullient woman of 64 who looks years younger, has been appearing in musicals since 1959 and is still doing so. At the time of this conversation, she was about to go to London to appear as one of the Andrews Sisters in a production of "Over Here," which takes place during World War II.
In 1975, an unusual musical opened at the Newman, part of the Public Theater. Called "A Chorus Line," it would become, at the time, the longest-running musical in Broadway history and made many careers, among them that of McKechnie. She won a Tony for it and married the show's director-choreographer, her longtime friend Michael Bennett. This fall, McKechnie published her autobiography, written with Greg Lawrence, "Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life" (Simon & Schuster), which came out just in time to coincide with the revival of "A Chorus Line."
Many of the experiences of Cassie, McKechnie's "A Chorus Line" character, were based on her own, incorporated as part of the workshop method used to create the show. McKechnie attended the opening night of the revival but says that she can't be objective about it. She kept seeing the people who originally played the roles onstage. She admits to particularly missing the two great talents who shaped her career: Bennett and Bob Fosse, both of whom died in the Eighties. She had met Bennett when they were dancing on the seminal Sixties TV music program, "Hullabaloo." When she asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, famously, "a choreographer." Collaborating on projects, McKechnie says, "We were finishing each other's sentences in a choreographic way." With the character of Cassie,
"He went out of his way to create a role for what my talent was."
McKechnie says she has enjoyed the roles she has done in subsequent years, most of them not on Broadway. "I loved doing ‘Annie Oakley,' Mama Rose [in "Gypsy'], ‘A Little Night Music' all over, that was great. To be able to be in first-rate productions." Her one-woman shows, "Inside the Music" and "Gypsy in My Soul," have also been hits.Along the way, the performer was stricken with an illness that, for a dancer, could hardly have been worse: rheumatoid arthritis. After many rounds with conventional medicine, she tried a strict diet and psychotherapy, which she claims enabled her to overcome it. "I really want people to go out there and not take no for an answer," she says. "There's always hope, I guess."
McKechnie is delighted by the Democrats' recent sweep of Congress, and "euphoric" about the women taking on leading political roles, particularly House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi. Her London project, "Over Here," is a spoof that features the Andrews Sisters looking for a new "sister" to join the act. "I said, ‘I want a big swing number. I want to be sweating and out of breath.' Me and my big mouth!" she says. And there is indeed a major dance number. As for the future, she optimistically cites the long career of actress Lillian Gish. "I see myself continuing as a healthy person and growing into parts, so I see no end."
EXCLUSIVE: Two and half months after John Targon, cofounder and codesigner of Baja East, was hired as creative director of the contemporary division at Marc Jacobs, he has left the company, WWD has learned. Marc Jacobs International, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, confirmed Targon’s departure in a statement: “John Targon is a talented designer and we appreciate the work he has done here. Ultimately working together did not make sense for the brand and we wish him the best.” Read the story by @jessiredale, link in bio. #wwdnews
@theluxurycollection is officially launching a collection, tapping Sofia Sanchez de Betak for the capsule. Over 30 styles will be featured in the Chufy x The Luxury Collection, debuting next month at Bergdorf Goodman, The Webster, FiveStory and more. De Betak, known as “@chufy,” drew inspiration for the collection from her trips to Japan in the past year #wwdfashion
@lhd, founder and CEO of @thewebster, has teamed up with @lebonmarcherivegauche for the European launch of her ready-to-wear line, LHD. The launch will come with an exclusive pop-up opening today that’s set to run through May 20. Located on the second floor, it carries her debut Miami-themed resort collection, launched in November as see-now-buy-now. #wwdfashion
@longchamp, which marks its 70th anniversary this year, just opened its biggest U.S. store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. On the lower level there’s a floor-to-ceiling display of the brand’s iconic Le Pliage bag – in all of its different colors, shapes and sizes. Customers can also have their product personalized in-store by imprinting names, initials or emblems. #wwdfashion (📷: @ericmtownsend)
“Whenever I’m in that place of sound and music, I don’t have fear or nervousness…This album has a lot of themes of courage and boldness and I want to be the soundtrack for people’s lives. I’ll be so happy if [my songs] evoke strength in people, which I know music has done for me,” says @kimbramusic of her newest album “Primal Heart.” The New Zealand-born singer sat down with WWD to talk about her music, newest tour and connecting with hear fans — read more on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
Luxury handbag resale company @rebagofficial is planning to sell a rare collectible for $70,000: the @hermes White Crocodile Himalayan Birkin. The exclusive Birkin sold for about $100,000 in 2008, when @davidbeckham bought one for his wife @victoriabeckham to add to her collection. Read more about the rare Birkin on WWD.com #wwdaccessories
With her costume pearl necklace and what-you-see-is-what-you-get style, Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday at age 92, was a straight-shooter from start to finish.
Born Barbara Pierce in New York City, Bush served as the 37th first lady, as well as the country’s second lady from 1981 to 1989. In addition to being part of the longest presidential marriage — 73 years — Bush also had the unlikely distinction of having one son, George W., become the 43rd president and another son, Jeb, run unsuccessfully in 2016. Having served as second lady during the Reagan administration’s two terms and lived all over the world during her own husband’s ascending political career, Barbara Bush made it clear that literacy — not fashion — was her priority. Read more from Rosemary Feitelberg’s obituary on the late First Lady in WWD.com, link in bio. #barbarabush #wwdnews
Western and ’90s trends have influenced denim for fall 2018. Think raw, dark and coated jeans mixed with bold prints and tough leather. #trendtuesdays #wwdfashion (Styled by @thealexbadia;📷: @ryanplett)