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Donna McKechnie:

Inside the Music LONDON A Barry J. Mishon and a-5-6-7-8 Inc. presentation, in association with Christopher Ager (for Cabaret World) and Jermyn Street Theater, of a musical revue in two acts, text adapted by Christopher Durang. Directed by Larry Fuller; musical director, Jim Osborne. Set, Richard Seddon for Robert Knight Ltd.; costumes, William Ivey Long. Opened Oct. 24, 1996, at the Jermyn Street Theater. Reviewed Oct. 25; 70 seats; 20 ($ 32) top. Running time: 2 HOURS. Donna McKechnie has worked with the best, and occasionally on Broadway has herself been the best, notably the few years from 1975 onward when her desperate-to-dance Cassie in A Chorus Line embodied the essential brio of the Street. Why, then, is her solo show Inside the Music an essentially saddening experience? It's not merely that she glosses over her years with Michael Bennett , lest mere mention of her ex-husband cause pain both to her and to us. The second reason has to do with her determination to come across as the dynamo that , Im afraid, she simply isnt. Sure, she can kick as high as ever, and the lung power is still there. But watching Inside the Music, one understands why this onetime chorus girl stood out as part of the Line: she's a sensational Broadway hoofer who lacks that extra dimension the sheer force of personality to enter the select ranks of divas. The shows structure follows the format adopted by Patti LuPone and others in recent years. Using a text adapted by Christopher Durang, the first act mixes personal favorites Cockeyed Optimist,Just Go to the Movies from Mack and Mabel with reminiscences of life in a Michigan that, she says, was like the black-and-white sections of The Wizard of Oz. She meets Fred Astaire backstage during A Chorus Line in Los Angeles, and gets through romantic mishaps by returning to her first love, dance. There are impersonations some good (Debbie Reynolds), some less so (Carol Channing) alongside quintessential New York tales of persistence in the face of defeat. As she points out, it's not easy, if you're Donna McKechnie, to miss out on roles requesting a Donna McKechnie type. The second act abandons psychobabble-heavy chat in favor of a show-by-show resume of McKechnie's greatest hits, accompanied by re-creations of choreography by Bennett, Bob Fosse, Christopher Chadman, Thommie Walsh and McKechnie herself. There's a How to Succeed number (A Secretary Is Not a Toy), two Company ones including the (by now) inevitable Being Alive, and If My Friends Could See Me Now from Sweet Charity, which McKechnie played on the road. Capping the evening, of course, is The Music and the Mirror, though the number here generates a fraction of the frisson it earlier did on Oct. 6, when McKechnie unforgettably reprised the role of Cassie for a BBC radio recording. (State Fair goes unmentioned.) Throughout the evening, McKechnie comes across as an incredibly nice woman, a showbiz survivor who also happens to be an unusual repository of talent. But there's a world of difference between geniality and the sizzle that sells this kind of show. Inside the Music gives the impression McKechnie would be a great lunch companion. But driving a show by herself, she looks ever so slightly lost. Matt Wolf

Inside the Music LONDON A Barry J. Mishon and a-5-6-7-8 Inc. presentation, in association with Christopher Ager (for Cabaret World) and Jermyn Street Theater, of a musical revue in two acts, text adapted by Christopher Durang. Directed by Larry Fuller; musical director, Jim Osborne. Set, Richard Seddon for Robert Knight Ltd.; costumes, William Ivey Long. Opened Oct. 24, 1996, at the Jermyn Street Theater. Reviewed Oct. 25; 70 seats; 20 ($ 32) top. Running time: 2 HOURS. Donna McKechnie has worked with the best, and occasionally on Broadway has herself been the best, notably the few years from 1975 onward when her desperate-to-dance Cassie in A Chorus Line embodied the essential brio of the Street. Why, then, is her solo show Inside the Music an essentially saddening experience? It’s not merely that she glosses over her years with Michael Bennett , lest mere mention of her ex-husband cause pain both to her and to us. The second reason has to do with her determination to come across as the dynamo that , Im afraid, she simply isnt. Sure, she can kick as high as ever, and the lung power is still there. But watching Inside the Music, one understands why this onetime chorus girl stood out as part of the Line: she’s a sensational Broadway hoofer who lacks that extra dimension the sheer force of personality to enter the select ranks of divas. The shows structure follows the format adopted by Patti LuPone and others in recent years. Using a text adapted by Christopher Durang, the first act mixes personal favorites Cockeyed Optimist,Just Go to the Movies from Mack and Mabel with reminiscences of life in a Michigan that, she says, was like the black-and-white sections of The Wizard of Oz. She meets Fred Astaire backstage during A Chorus Line in Los Angeles, and gets through romantic mishaps by returning to her first love, dance. There are impersonations some good (Debbie Reynolds), some less so (Carol Channing) alongside quintessential New York tales of persistence in the face of defeat. As she points out, it’s not easy, if you’re Donna McKechnie, to miss out on roles requesting a Donna McKechnie type. The second act abandons psychobabble-heavy chat in favor of a show-by-show resume of McKechnie’s greatest hits, accompanied by re-creations of choreography by Bennett, Bob Fosse, Christopher Chadman, Thommie Walsh and McKechnie herself. There’s a How to Succeed number (A Secretary Is Not a Toy), two Company ones including the (by now) inevitable Being Alive, and If My Friends Could See Me Now from Sweet Charity, which McKechnie played on the road. Capping the evening, of course, is The Music and the Mirror, though the number here generates a fraction of the frisson it earlier did on Oct. 6, when McKechnie unforgettably reprised the role of Cassie for a BBC radio recording. (State Fair goes unmentioned.) Throughout the evening, McKechnie comes across as an incredibly nice woman, a showbiz survivor who also happens to be an unusual repository of talent. But there’s a world of difference between geniality and the sizzle that sells this kind of show. Inside the Music gives the impression McKechnie would be a great lunch companion. But driving a show by herself, she looks ever so slightly lost. Matt Wolf

Donna McKechnie:

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