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Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala

The event was on September 23.

Porchlight Music Theatre was joined by nearly 200 people to launch its 28th season, honor the 2022 ICON Award recipient, one of Broadway's foremost singing and dancing leading ladies, Tony Award winner Donna McKechnie, present The Luminary Award to Dan Ratner and The Genevieve and Daniel Ratner Foundation and raise funds for its artistic and educational programs, Friday, Sept. 23 at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, 160 E. Pearson St.

This year's Porchlight's ICONS Gala was the 28-year old organization's first Friday night gala and was, as attendees said, "an unforgettable night." The evening began with a cocktail reception where guests were able to meet the 2022 ICON Award recipient, Ms. McKechnie, and view displays of Porchlight's history and current programming. The dinner began with a welcome from co-chairs Joe Higgins and Scott Hoesman, where Higgins, a Porchlight Board member, said the evening would be a look back with gratitude and to an exciting future for Porchlight. The co-chairs then introduced the hosts for the evening Cortney Hall and Matthew Rodrigues of NBC5's "Chicago Today."

Hall said that they were "proud to support Porchlight and its commitment to artistry, inclusion and innovation; the breadth of its programming; the excellence on the stage; and its impact on youth across the city." Rodrigues spoke of the importance of supporting the arts and specifically Porchlight's educational and artistic programming. They then introduced the first of several musical and dance tributes to Donna McKechnie, directed by Artistic Director Michael Weber with co-direction and choreography by Jenna Schoppe and music directed by Linda Madonia. The Chicago performers included in the salutes were Christopher Chase Carter (performer/additional choreography), Gilbert Domally (performer), Kelly Felthous (performer/additional choreography), Reneisha J. Jenkins (performer/additional choreography), Hanah Rose Nardone (performer) and Will Skrip (performer). Joining Madonia on keyboard in the ICONS band are Marcel Reimão Bonfim (bass); Justin Akira Kono (drums) and Jonathan Golko (reeds).

Executive Director Jeannie Lukow then presented The Luminary Award for Exemplary Leadership and Support of Music Theatre in Chicago to Dan Ratner and The Ratner Foundation saying, "Porchlight knows Dan because he has supported us via The Ratner Foundation, which Dan founded. For nearly 10 years that generosity has gone toward hiring young theatre artists, making our productions the best they can be and so much more. For that, we are very grateful." Ratner accepted the award and thanked Porchlight for all they do for the city of Chicago and that he and his foundation are proud to support the organization.

After dinner, Artistic Director Michael Weber said Ms. McKechnie was truly a triple threat - excelling in acting, singing and dancing and told the story of her rise to Broadway legend. The evening then continued with performances from How to Succeed in Business..., A Funny Thing Happened..., Promises, Promises and Hullabaloo, productions that featured the 2022 ICON Award recipient.

Chicago chefs Rick Bayless and Gale Gand were the hosts for the live auction of the ICONS Gala, which included a Porchlight Mainstage experience, an in-home "Chocolate 101" party with Gand, an ultimate Chicago experience with hotel and tickets to events in the city, a Porchlight wine cellar with two cases of premium wines and champagne and a chef's tasting of dishes inspired by musicals with Bayless in his home.

After the excitement of the auction, Ms. McKechnie took to the stage for one of the highlights of the evening. She performed, with dance movements, one of the classics from A Chorus Line, "At the Ballet." This song and the musical had much relevance because she won the Tony Award when she originated the role of "Cassie" on Broadway and naturally the special moment was met with a standing ovation.

Members of Porchlight Young Professionals Lanie Bayless and Cody Czmyr led the paddle raising section of the program saying, "We are now at the moment, where you can all play a starring role in supporting the quality, artistry, generosity, diversity and vision of Chicago's music theatre by making a direct contribution." Up next in a night of special moments was the presentation of the ICON Award and a conversation with Ms. McKechnie and WGN's Paul Lisnek.

Ms. McKechnie said in her acceptance speech that she was honored to be in Chicago and was delighted to be able to meet so many nice people who share her love of theatre. Reflecting on the evening she told Porchlight "I had the best time meeting the people who make up the great support system for the Porchlight. The friends, the board members, the performers and the staff...I could go on and on, honestly, it was all so splendid."

During the conversation, Lisnek and Ms. McKechnie spoke of her history and her long list of famous collaborators and performances. The audience was thrilled as she shared memories of lunching with Fred Astaire, how she turned down working with Bob Fosse for many years because she did not feel the roles being offered were right for her until Fosse offered her the role of "Sweet Charity" in the 25th anniversary tour. She also gave more behind the scenes insight when she said she spoke to Hal Prince about the importance of keeping the song "Tick Tock" in Company.

The 2022 ICONS Gala concluded with Hall and Rodrigues returning to thank Ms. McKechnie for being part of the special event and to all of those who made the ICONS Gala a success.

The ICONS Gala was launched in 2012 and has honored Hal Prince, Elaine Stritch, Bob Fosse, Ethel Merman and Fred Astaire among others. In 2020, The ICON Award, celebrating a notable artist who has made an indelible contribution to American entertainment through our art form of music theatre, was established and presented to living legends Joel Grey and, most recently, Chita Rivera.

The Luminary Award, presented this year to Dan Ratner and The Ratner Foundation, recognizes an outstanding individual, family or family foundation with a history of philanthropic and volunteer leadership on behalf of Porchlight and music theatre in Chicago. Past honorees include Rick and Deann Bayless and The Bayless Family Foundation, Elaine Cohen and Arlen D. Rubin, Jim Jensen and Jean Klingenstein.

Photo Credit: Chollette

Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala
Artistic Director Michael Weber, the 2022 ICONS Award recipient Tony-Award winner Donna McKechnie and Executive Director Jeannie Lukow

Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala
ICON Award recipient, Tony-Award winner Donna McKechnie, flanked by 2022 ICONS Gala Chairs Joe Higgins (left) and Scott Hoesman

Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala
Artistic Director Michael Weber, the 2022 Luminary Award recipient Dan Ratner of The Ratner Foundation and Executive Director Jeannie Lukow

Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala
WGNa??s Paul Lisnek who interviewed Ms. McKechnie and the 2022 ICONS Gala Hosts Cortney Hall and Matthew Rodrigues of NBC5a??s Chicago Today

Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala
The cocktail reception

Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala
Hanah Rose Nardone, Gilbert Domally, Kelly Felthous, Reneisha J. Jenkins and Will Skrip

Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala
Celebrity Chefs Gale Gand and Rick Bayless

Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala
The 2022 ICON Award recipient Donna McKechnie

Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala
Will Skrip, Kelly Felthous, Hanah Rose Nardone, Reneisha J. Jenkins and Christopher Chase Carter

Photos: Porchlight Music Theatre Honors Donna McKechnie at ICONS Gala
WGNa??s Paul Lisnek interviewing the 2022 ICON Award recipient Tony-Award winner Donna McKechnie


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