3 Things the “Beaches” Musical Needs to Be Awesome

Bette serves attitude

Bette serves attitude

Oh my gay stars, y’all. They’re making a stage musical out of Beaches. It’s coming to D.C.’s Signature Theatre next February, and I’m probably going to rent an apartment near the theatre so I can go ahead and see every performance. And no, I will not be deterred by the fact that most musicals based on movies end up sucking. This one will be different. It will.

But since you asked, here are 3 things this musical absolutely needs in order to be as amazing as it deserves to be.

(In case you don’t know the movie, a quick summary: When they’re girls, sassy, working-class CC Bloom (Bette Midler) and sheltered, wealthy Hillary Whitney (Barbara Hershey) become fast friends. They stay close for decades, even when CC becomes a huge theatre/recording star and Hillary becomes a society wife. After a series of ups, downs, marriages, and divorces, Hillary gets cancer and dies. Then CC sings “Wind Beneath My Wings,” and everyone cries.)

(1) As little “Wind Beneath My Wings” as possible

Obviously, there’s no point in staging this show if you don’t include “Wind Beneath My Wings.” The song existed for years before Bette Midler sang it in the movie—it was a country hit for Gary Morris in 1983—-but it was Bette’s version that made it a smash. I would certainly be disappointed if I saw Beaches and didn’t hear the song.

HOWEVER, nobody needs to hear “Wind Beneath My Wings” a hundred times. That’s what happened with the musical version of Ghost: The producers bought the rights to “Unchained Melody,” which is just as tied to that movie as “Wings” is to Beaches, and then they proceeded to use four times in the show. Four times! Including once in Spanish! By the last time the song appeared, it was just ridiculous, and it ruined the impact. To that end, if we just hear “Wind Beneath My Wings” once, then it will mean a lot more.

 (2) A thoughtful version of the department store fight

I’m sure the creative team is already putting a lot of thought into this scene, when CC and Hillary have a relationship-changing fight about CC’s egomania and Hillary’s judgmental hatefulness and (oh yeah) the man they fight over. It’s a really well-written argument, with about a hundred layers of subtext and long-buried hurt feelings, and both actresses just slay it. But here’s thing thing: This scene feels especially powerful because the ladies fight in the middle of a crowded department store. There’s a crackle of extra tension because these women are fighting in front of strangers who obviously hear them. The setting also gives their fight the electric jolt of movement: They practically chase each other around perfume counters, hissing their hurt. When this moment moves to a theatre, I hope it has the same sense of urgency. It doesn’t need to be exactly the same, of course. It’s not the department store that matters: It’s the rush of revealing private emotions in a public place.

(3) A separate production of the musical that has “Oh, Industry!” in it

Early in her career, CC gets cast in a crazy experimental musical that features a song called “Oh, Industry!” And I want to see the rest of this musical! The Signature should expand it to a 30 minute cabaret and perform it as a late-night special on, like, Monday nights. Who wouldn’t want to see this?

Mark Blankenship also edits this theatre magazine. He tweets as @IAmBlankenship.



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