American musical theater dancer, singer, actress, and choreographer. Donna starred as “Cassie” from the musical A Chorus Line, for which she earned the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1976. She is also known for playing Amanda Harris/Olivia Corey on the Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows from 1969 to 1970.
In April, 1968, McKechnie was back on Broadway in the short-lived musical version of Leo Rosten‘s collection of short stories The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N, which led to a featured role in Burt Bacharach and Hal David‘s Promises, Promises, choreographed by Michael Bennett. Along with Baayork Lee and Margo Sappington, she danced in one of Broadway’s most famous numbers, Turkey Lurkey Time. It was here that she first attracted notice from critics and theatergoers alike. This was followed by a role in the touring company of Call Me Madam, starring Ethel Merman.
Bennett showcased McKechnie again in Stephen Sondheim‘s Company (1970), where she danced Tick-Tock. After leaving the Broadway cast, she reprised her role in the Los Angeles and London companies, and also toured in the 1971 revival of On the Town (as Ivy). In March 1973, she choreographed and performed in the highly acclaimed one-night-only concert Sondheim: A Musical Tribute at the Shubert Theatre in New York. In 1974, she co-starred with Richard Kiley and Bob Fosse in the unsuccessful musical film version of the classic The Little Prince.
Donna returned to Broadway company of A Chorus Line in 1986. During the remainder of the 1980s she also toured in Sweet Charity and Annie Get Your Gun, and she appeared in a London revival of Can-Can. She also participated in the “Chorus Line” extravaganza to celebrate its then record-breaking run on Broadway in September 1983.
Her television work included a regular role on the Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows early in her career, and after her rise to fame, guest appearances on Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In and Cheers as Deborah, the ex-wife of Sam Malone, plus the role of Suzi Laird on several Fame episodes.
In the early 1990s, McKechnie appeared off-Broadway twice, first in a revue entitled Cut the Ribbons, followed by Annie Warbucks, a less successful sequel to the hit Annie. In 1993, she reunited with most of the original cast of Company for three concert performances. In 1996, she was awarded the Fred Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer for her performance in a Broadway adaptation of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II‘s film State Fair. In the same year, she was in a production of You Never Know at the Pasadena Playhouse. In February, 1997, she played Phyllis in a concert performance of Follies at London’s Drury Lane Theatre, and the following year took on the role of Sally in a production of that same show at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. McKechnie also starred opposite Carol Lawrence in the Los Angeles and New York production of Joni Fritz’s Girl’s Room, Produced by Dennis Grimaldi and Directed and Choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett both former Michael Bennett dancers.
In 2001 McKechnie created of the role of Lela Rogers, mother of legendary Ginger Rogers in Ginger The Musical in its world premiere.
In 2002, McKechnie starred in the pre-Broadway production of the Jerry Herman musical revue Showtune. In recent years, she has toured periodically in her one-woman show Inside the Music, a potpourri of songs, dances and anecdotes about her life in the theater and her successful battle with arthritis, directed by her old Chorus Line castmate, Thommie Walsh. Her autobiography, Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life, written with Greg Lawrence, was published by Simon & Schuster on August 29, 2006, only weeks before the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line opened on October 5.
In June 2010 McKechnie appeared at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.