A Broadway icon has inspired a new scholarship fund at Scotland’s national conservatoire.
Award-winning star of stage and screen Donna McKechnie has thrilled audiences worldwide in a showstopping musical theatre career. From starring in the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line – which earned her a Tony award – to a string of smash-hit musicals, the internationally renowned, triple threat talent has spent almost 60 years in the spotlight.
Now, a new scholarship fund inspired by Donna – and with her involvement – is being launched at Scotland’s national conservatoire in Glasgow, with ambitions it will play a key role in developing the next generation of international musical theatre talent.
The Donna McKechnie Musical Theatre Scholarship will support Musical Theatre students with exceptional potential across Performance, Production and Musical Directing degree pathways as they pursue their dreams. Every donation to the fund – in its entirety – will be used to support the next generation of professionals in training to realise their potential. Donations can be made at rcs.ac.uk/scholarships.
To celebrate the launch, Donna is set to take to the stage with students for an exclusive and intimate fundraising performance in one of her favourite cabaret venues.
For one night only, on Tuesday, June 18, six final year BA Musical Theatre will perform with Donna at The Crazy Coqs in Soho, London. The legendary venue is part of Brasserie Zédel, which was once part of the Regent Palace Hotel which opened in 1915. The Crazy Coqs has played host to many stars of stage and screen including Frances Ruffelle, Maria Friedman, Giles Terera, Lorna Luft and Jason Donovan.
The review performance is set to share insights into how Donna and her peers created A Chorus Line with the celebrated choreographer Michael Bennett. It will be interspersed with the personal stories of the students, who are on the cusp of their professional careers.
With music from A Chorus Line reimagined and rearranged, a specially invited audience will hear what drew the students to the stage and the challenges they’ve faced, while Donna will inspire with tales from her own stellar life in show business. The piece will be directed by Andrew Panton, a Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Visiting Professor and Artistic Director of Dundee Rep.
For her portrayal of Cassie in A Chorus Line, Donna took home the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical as well as a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. Her solo The Music and the Mirror is one of the show’s standout scenes.
Donna said: ‘I have the highest regard for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and all of the great work that it does. If young artists have the talent, passion and drive needed to succeed in this glorious, tough and life-affirming world of musical theatre, lack of finances shouldn’t derail them.
‘As a dedicated mentor, I am committed not just to pass the baton but to be able to continue inspiring, encouraging and being a positive influence for this new generation of performing artists. I am more than excited to endorse this scholarship in my name. It is, indeed, an honour.”
Scotland’s national conservatoire is consistently recognised as one of the world’s top performing arts education institutions (QS World University Rankings) and offers specialist and intensive training in music, drama, dance, production and film. Graduates of the Royal Conservatoire make an impact on stage and screen, and behind the scenes, across the globe.
They include Richard Madden, who won ‘best performance by an actor in a television series – drama’ for his role in BBC’s Bodyguard at this year’s Golden Globes and Laura Donnelly who was named ‘best actress’ at the 2018 Olivier Awards, and is nominated for ‘best performance by an actress in a leading role in a play’ in the Tony Awards for her role in The Ferryman, staged in London’s West End and on Broadway.
Acting graduate Sam Heughan, star of TV drama Outlander, recently returned to the Royal Conservatoire to host a masterclass with students on the same day that a royal visit took place. Sam met with Patron of the Royal Conservatoire, His Royal Highness, The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay.
Graduate James McAvoy, the Bafta-winning and Golden Globe-nominated actor, has funded the James McAvoy Drama Scholarship to enable young people to experience the world-class drama training at RCS as he did. James is a graduate of the BA Acting programme and Patron of the Junior Conservatoire of Drama.
David Tennant attended too, and has won critical acclaim on TV, film and stage, in Doctor Who, Casanova, Broadchurch, Jessica Jones, Harry Potter and Hamlet.
Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: ‘Donna McKechnie is a musical theatre icon who has captivated audiences all over the world and inspired countless young performers with her talent and versatility. We’re thrilled that she has agreed to put her name to a scholarship which will play a vital role in enabling the next generation of musical theatre talent – on stage and off – to start their artistic journey here in Scotland.
‘It is an honour to welcome her into the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland community – a bona fide Broadway star whose longevity and resiliency speak to a true commitment to the art form. Donna has dedicated her life to performance and we are thrilled that she’s spearheading this important new scholarship that will help propel future students on their own creative paths.’
Information on The Donna McKechnie Musical Theatre Scholarship, and how you can donate, is available at rcs.ac.uk/scholarships
For more on Donna McKechnie, visit www.donnamckechnie.com