‘One step at a time’: Broadway icon’s inspirational message to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s graduating class of 2020

She’s the Broadway sensation who has spent more than sixty years in the spotlight. Musical theatre icon Donna McKechnie, the Tony Award-winning actor, singer and dancer, has enjoyed a dazzling career in showbusiness.

The legendary leading lady has starred in a string of smash-hit musicals, including the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year.

Revolving around the lives of seventeen dancers hoping for their big break on Broadway, its message of resilience, dedication and to never give up on your dreams, whatever life throws at you, still rings true today … perhaps now more than ever.

Now, as graduates make their way in the industry, Donna, who launched a musical theatre scholarship in her name at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland last year, has sent a special message to the Class of 2020.

“You have worked hard and accomplished so much to be where you at this moment in time and this is just the beginning of what I hope is a long, happy and successful life in the performing arts,” said Donna, from her home in New York City.

“We’ve all been put on pause during these difficult times. It’s been a challenge to navigate this new way of living but it’s not stopping us from looking forward and creating new ways to do our work. It will all come back, that is certain, but it may take more time than we might expect.”

 

Donna is a dedicated mentor and is committed not just to pass the baton but to be able to continue inspiring, encouraging and being a positive influence for a new generation of performing artists.

The Donna McKechnie Musical Theatre Scholarship supports Musical Theatre students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with exceptional potential across Performance, Production and Musical Directing degree pathways.

Every donation to the fund – in its entirety – supports the professional- in-training to help them realise their potential. Donations can be made at rcs.ac.uk/scholarships.

Last year, to celebrate the scholarship launch, Donna took to the stage with students for an exclusive and intimate fundraising performance in one of her favourite cabaret venues.

For one night only, six BA Musical Theatre students who were approaching graduation – David Healy, Anna-Mili Rich, Michelle James, Harry Mills, Sam Stevenson and Alyson Tharp – performed with Donna at The Crazy Coqs in Soho, London.

Broadway star Donna McKechnie at a piano with Musical Theatre students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Donna in rehearsals with RCS students and director Andrew Panton ahead of their performance at London’s Crazy Coqs

With music from A Chorus Line reimagined and rearranged, the students shared what drew them to the stage and the challenges they’d faced, while Donna inspired with tales from her own stellar life and career.

“I cannot believe it was almost a year ago that I visited the beautiful city of Glasgow to launch the musical theatre scholarship for the Royal Conservatoire in my name,” she said.

“What an honour for me! And what an honour to work with some of the graduating students in presenting a musical evening at the Crazy Coqs in London. It was a fantastic experience and so exhilarating for everyone.”

Donna McKechnie poses at the Crazy Coqs in London with six RCS Musical Theatre Students, director Andrew Panton and musical director Ryan McKenzie, an RCS graduate

Donna and the students delivered a showstopping performance in London to launch the scholarship. They’re pictured with musical director and RCS graduate Ryan McKenzie (left) and director Andrew Panton (right).

The Class of 2020 may be graduating into a challenging arts landscape but with a six-decade career, Donna has found that between jobs, the ‘downtime’ as she calls it, can often be the most creative of times.

“To be able to take the time to check in on what I need to improve and to think about, other things I want to pursue, to just take the time to think, to read, to write down thoughts and have ideas about how I can find ways to express myself creatively, can be more important than any performance I may ever give. So, this can be a good time, too.

“You are the future and you are going to define the future for all of us and I have great faith in you. The time will come when we can be together again, so keep the light on … one step at a time.”


Find out more about Donna on her website.

Tune in to a recent interview where Donna McKechnie discusses her past, present and future with Richard Skipper.


 

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