TIME STEPS by Donna McKechnie


My Musical Comedy Life
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A bland memoir from the hugely talented Broadway performer.

Born in Detroit in 1942 to a depressive war bride and a joyless Army veteran, McKechnie recognized early on in herself an all-encompassing love for theater. She was cast, at age eight, in a local production of Our Town. As a teenager, she had several productions under her belt and was teaching ballet. After running away (twice) to New York, McKechnie’s star rose as she toured the country with productions such as West Side Story. Television commercials followed in the mid-’60s and a two-year stint in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, dancing under the direction of Bob Fosse. While working on the TV variety show Hullabaloo, and then on Dark Shadows, young McKechnie enjoyed a short-lived marriage to promoter Al Schwartz. While life in L.A. depressed her, work on A Chorus Line elated her. In the spring of 1976, McKechnie’s Tony for her performance in that show was just one of nine the production received. Her second marriage, to choreographer Michael Bennett, was not only fleeting but ended badly, leaving the actress blacklisted, without so much as an audition on her schedule. A debilitating bout of rheumatoid arthritis threatened to take away her livelihood altogether, but a cleansing, holistic intervention slowly brought her back, just in time to perform in A Chorus Line in Tokyo and Paris, in the summer of 1985. Positive reviews revitalized McKechnie’s career, though clouds brought about by her mother’s death from lung cancer and Bennett’s sudden demise from AIDS hovered darkly. McKechnie too often renders her long career on stage with stale, pedestrian prose (countless sentences begin “I remember”), though she does offer charming anecdotes about legendary personalities: the classy professionalism of Aaron Spelling; the angry animosity of Ethel Merman; the hilarity of Elaine Stritch.

Forty-plus dramatic years in the footlights, related in a numbing monotone.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-5520-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2006


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