Donna McKechnie Kicks Off Porchlight Season

By Judy Carmack Bross


(L to R) Artistic Director Michael Weber, 2022 ICONS Award recipient Donna McKechnie and Executive Director Jeannie Lukow at the 2022 ICONS Gala supporting Porchlight Music Theatre.          Photo Credit: Chollette


Incandescent leading lady Donna McKechnie for whom the role Cassie was created in Chorus Line recently lit up The Ritz-Carleton Chicago for Porchlight Music Theatre’s ICONS Gala which launched the its 28th season.  The actress was one singular sensation as she received the 2022 ICONS award in front of almost 200 guests.

Not only did she perform signature songs but she also shared behind-the-scenes stories about Fred Astaire, Hal Prince and Bob Fosse. McKechnie follows Joel Gray and Chita Riviera as Porchlight Living Legends.  


Donna McKechnie performs.          Photo Credit: Chollette


Dan Ratner and the Genevieve and Daniel Ratner Foundation received the evening’s Luminary Award for its artistic and educational programs.  Joe Higgins and Scott Hoesman served as the Co-Chairs of the 2022 ICONS Gala.


Artistic Director Michael Weber,  Luminary Award recipient Dan Ratner of The Ratner Foundation and Executive Director Jeannie Lukow.          Photo Credit: Chollette


 Donna McKechnie flanked by ICONS Gala Chairs Joe Higgins (left) and Scott Hoesman.          Photo Credit: Chollette


WGN’s Paul Lisnek, left,  with Gala Hosts Cortney Hall and Matthew Rodrigues of NBC5’s “Chicago Today.”

Photo Credit: Chollette


Hosts for the evening Cortney Hall and Matthew Rodrigues of NBC5’s Chicago Today spotlighted Porchlight’s educational and artistic programming and its commitment to artistry, inclusion and innovation.  They then presented several music and dance tributes to McKechnie directed by Artistic Director Michael Weber, with co-direction and choreography by Jenna Schoppe and music directed by Linda Madonia.


Celebrity Chefs Gale Gand and Rick Bayless lead the live auction.           Photo Credit: Chollette


Chicago chefs Rick Bayless and Gale Gand hosted the live auction which included a Porchlight mainstage experience, an in-home “Chocolate 101” party with Gand, and a chef’s tasting of dishes inspired by musicals with Bayless in his home.  Lanie Bayless and Cody Czmyr, representing Porchlight’s Young Professionals, led the paddle raise.


McKechnie and WGN’s Paul Lisnek.          Photo Credit: Chollette


Among the behind-the-scenes theater history McKechnie shared with WGN’s Paul Lisnek was how she turned down working with Bob Fosse for many years because she didn’t feel the roles he offered were right for her until he asked her to perform in Sweet Charity for the 25th anniversary tour.  She related that she had spoken to Hal Prince about the importance of keeping the song “Tick Tok” in Company.

The ICONS Gala was launched in 2012 and has honored Hall Prince, Eliaine Stritch, Bob Fosse, Ethel Merman and Fred Astaire among others. The ICON Award, celebrating a notable artist who made an indelible contribution to American entertainment through the art form of musical theatre, was first presented in 2020.


(L to R) Hanah Rose Nardone, Gilbert Domally, Kelly Felthous, Reneisha J. Jenkins and Will Skrip perform.          Photo Credit: Chollette


(L to R) Will Skrip, Kelly Felthous, Hanah Rose Nardone, Reneisha J. Jenkins and Christopher Chase perform.

Photo Credit: Chollette


The ICONS Gala cocktail reception          Photo Credit: Chollette


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