Our daughters found themselves ending fifth grade in a fight with one of their best friends over something a classmate said. Her mom said the same thing I said, “Lots of things in life come and go, but your best girlfriends are so precious.” Even though our girls are young, it’s a sentiment we both want our girls to learn.
Beaches, a new musical making its pre-Broadway Chicago premiere, brought her idea to life. The story honors the well-known movie of the same name. Two little girls meet on a beach and start a life-long friendship. The girls go through life’s changes together, communicating mostly through letters. You see them growing up from little girls to young women through their words to each other. They don’t see each other in person until they are grown-ups, but their bond grows stronger as they support each other’s dreams via the U.S. mail. It seems quaint to see the girls writing letters back and forth in this era of instant communication. The time between letters helps the girls process their feelings and think about how to respond.
At its core, Beaches, is a love story between two friends who support each other through life’s changes. It’s a reminder that not all love stories are romantic and sometimes the best love stories are between friends. From the first time Presley Ryan (young Cee Cee) and Brooklyn Shuck (young Bertie) come on stage, their personalities shine through. Cee Cee lives a big, colorful life while Bertie is more reserved. Through the years the girls “rub off” on each other. While it’s easy to see how Cee Cee influenced Bertie to be more adventurous from the start, it isn’t until the second act that you really see how Bertie influenced Cee Cee.
The girls move from childhood to teenagers to young women through original songs and dances. The original songs and music are wonderful story-telling vehicles. You can see the eras go by as the music changes to cover life from 1952 through 1985. The audience laughed at the outfits and smiled at their own memories of those years. Of course Cee Cee sings “Wind Beneath My Wings.” You can change plot points, add songs, create dances, but including “Wind Beneath My Wings” was required. Shoshana Bean (adult Cee Cee) made the song her own, yet everyone who loves the original Bette Midler version will be happy.
As with all long-term relationships there are good times and bad times, with a misunderstanding that creates a chasm between them for years. Neither would make a move towards reconciliation until Cee Cee and Bertie (Whitney Bashor)ended up in the same city for different reasons. Their resumed friendship comes just before cancer enters their lives.
The story is familiar, but not a scene by scene re-enactment of the movie. This makes the show stronger because people are able to enjoy Beaches as a new, stand-alone work. The strong performances echo the movie, yet stand on their own as memorable and emotional. You could hear sniffling throughout the audience as the musical moved towards its finale. The actors managed to bring the show to its natural end in a way that was smooth and true-to-life. It wasn’t the over-the-top ending Cee Cee might have chosen; nor was it the refined, proper ending Bertie might have created. It was the culmination of both their personalities, which made it completely appropriate and lovely.
In the author’s note, Iris Rainer Dart writes, “Go home and call your best friend tonight.” It’s a lovely thought, but it would be better to take your best friend to the Drury Lane Theatre to see Beaches as a celebration of your friendship.
Beaches is on stage at the Drury Lane Theatre until August 16. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.drurylane.com or call 1 (630) 530-0111.
Shari writes about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. Image courtesy of the Drury Lane Theatre.
Disclosure: I did attend the opening night performance. My words and opinions are my own.
Category: Shari's Corner