This is one of those rare situations where the rating system does not truly satisfy what I have seen. While I can safely say that the new musical, “Beaches”, based on the movie of the same name (without the “musical” part) written by Iris Rainer Dart is a story that deserves to be seen, the actual performances of the dynamic cast that is performing at Drury Lane Oakbrook, would get a for their ability and energy in this production that is supposed to be preparing for the Broadway stage.
First, we must consider that this was a heartwarming story about two girls, from different worlds that became best of friends over a lengthy period of time and that it starred Bette Middler as Cee-Cee and Barbara Hershey as Roberta on the “silver screen”. The girls meet on the beach in Atlantic City, one lost, Bertie/Roberta(played by Brooklyn Shuck as a tyke) and the other an outgoing Jewish performer, Cee-Cee (played to perfection by the adorable Presley Ryan, who will knock your sox off). They become bosom buddies and we then go on their ride to adulthood, stopping for a short while in their teens as Samantha Pauly takes over Cee-Cee and Olivia Renteria, Bertie. As adults, it is the wonderful Shoshana Bean as the powerful Cee-Cee and Whitney Bashor as the loveable Bertie.
While we know they are not together, but communicate by letters (the set walls are covered with the letters that they have sent and collected over the years), we know that in their hearts, they consider themselves as “one! Directed by Eric Schaeffer on this simple set by Derek Mclane, we are treated to many beach scenes throughout the two acts of action and music. I found the first act to be a bit slow, and while there is some rousing musical numbers in this show, I found that most of them were sort of alike and none of them truly propelled the story-line.
Of course, the song from the movie, “The Wind Beneath My Wings” does appear in the second act and is handled in a beautiful way by Cee-Cee. Here is where I must say that Ms Bean is a combination of the talents of Bernadette Peters, Barbra Streisand and Ms Middler all rolled up and a special talent that one should make sure to watch in any role on any stage- she is dynamite!
The second act is more powerful and far more emotional than the first with less glitz and more story. There are flaws in the story and not wanting to spoil your outing to Oakbrook, I will only tell you, if you have not seen the movie, there is some sadness, mixed with other happiness at the end. One might say that this is a five tissue ending. One might also say that this is a two blanket production as the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook might serve as the “icebox” of the western suburbs. Baby, it was cold inside!.
The story is simple. Two young girls meet, become life-long friends and stay friends through thick and thin. We view their lives, their romances, their romantic failures, their good fortune and ultimately their love and devotion to each other. The ensemble is quite strong with many of the players taking on several roles. Little Miss Shuck also plays her own daughter, Nina (you have to see the show to understand this one) and others like Travis Taylor, Nancy Voigts (a great Jewish Stage- Mama), Jim Deselm, Kelly Anne Clark, Michael Accardo, Andrew Varela, Samantha Pauly, William Carlos Angulo, Heather Brorson, Rachel Klippel, Josh Kohane, Ron Turner, Holly Stauder, Raleigh Shuck and Christine Mild make these characters take on lives.
Brian J. Nash’s musical direction is sharp and his orchestra never misses a beat. The choreography by Lorin Latarro is unique and the wigs (Rick Jarvie) and costumes (Alejo Vietti) along with the lighting by Howell Binkley make the pieces fit. Knowing that this is a new show, with a new script and new music that has a stirring desire to make it to Broadway, I am sure there will be changes on the way. In fact, I would bet that by the time this run ends (August 16th), many alterations and changes will take place. This is all part of what the world of theater is all about, and one of the reasons that live theater is so exciting.
You now have your opportunity to see a “pre-Broadway” show in the Chicago area at a very affordable price, and one that you will enjoy from the opening number (which will wow you) until the very strong ending (where you will tear up). “Beaches, a New Musical” will run at Drury Lane Theatre located at 100 Drury Lane Drive in Oakbrook Terrace (just north of the shopping center) thru the 16th of August with performances as follows:
Thursdays 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 6 p.m.
Tickets range from $45-$60 (students as low as $30/Seniors as low as $40) and are available at the box office, by phone at 1-630-530-0111, at Ticketmaster outlets and 1-800-745-3000 or online at www.DruryLane.com
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Beaches, a New Musical”. Running time- 2 hours and 24 minutes with one intermission)