PHOTO CALL: A First Look at World-Premiere Beaches Musical, Starring Mara Davi and Alysha Umphress
By Matthew Blank
Virginia's Signature Theatre presents the world premiere of Beaches, adapted from the 1985 novel by Iris Rainer Dart, beginning Feb. 18 at Signature's MAX Theatre. Mara Davi and Alysha Umphress co-star in the roles originated on screen by Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler, respectively.
Directed by Signature artistic director Eric Schaeffer (Follies, Million Dollar Quartet), the musical — chronicling a decades-long friendship between two women — stars Davi (A Chorus Line, The Drowsy Chaperone) as Bertie and Umphress (American Idiot, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) as Cee Cee Bloom.
Beaches, originally scheduled through March 23, was given a week-long extension through March 30. Opening night is set for March 4.
Based on the 1985 novel by Dart (later adapted into the 1988 movie with Midler and Hershey), the musical features a book by Dart and Thom Thomas, lyrics by Dart and music by David Austin.
Beaches, according to Signature, "follows two extraordinary friends through 30 years of camaraderie, laughter and sorrow. Vivacious, outlandish Cee Cee and beautiful, privileged Bertie meet as children and become fast friends. From pen-pals to roommates to romantic rivals, Cee Cee and Bertie's oil-and-water friendship perseveres through even the most tragic trials. With a touching vulnerability, Beaches exemplifies the triumph of the human spirit and the bonds of sisterhood."
"We've assembled an amazing cast along with a terrific creative team to bring this special story to life," said Schaeffer in an earlier statement. "Iris, Thom and David have created a magical world of memories and friendship in this heartfelt story for the stage in a very original way."
Joining Davi and Umphress are Clifton Samuels (Follies) as Michael Barron, Matthew Scott (Sondheim on Sondheim, Jersey Boys) as John Perry, Donna Migliaccio (Ragtime) as Leona Bloom, Helen Hedman (Signature's My Fair Lady) as Rose White, Brooklyn Shuck (Annie) as Young Bertie, Presley Ryan (NBC's "The Sound of Music") as Young Cee Cee, Maya Brettell (Studio Theatre's The Big Meal) as Teen Bertie and Gracie Jones (Olney Theatre Center's Spring Awakening) as Teen Cee Cee.
Rounding out the cast are Svea Johnson (Karen Lewandowski/Nina), Michael Bunce (Arthur/Melman/ensemble), Bayla Whitten (nurse/ensemble), Jamie Eacker, Heather Brorsen, Davis Hasty, Dan Manning, Ryah Nixon and Robbie Roby.
The production features choreography by Tony nominee Dan Knechtges (Xanadu, Sondheim on Sondheim, 110 in the Shade), musical supervision by Mary Mitchell Campbell (Big Fish, The Addams Family, Company), orchestrations by Lynne Shankel (Alter Boyz), scenic design by Tony Award winner Derek McLane (Breakfast at Tiffany's, Follies), costume design by Frank Labovitz, lighting design by Chris Lee and sound design by Lane Elms.
Kerry Epstein is the production stage manager, and Stephanie Junkin is the assistant stage manager.
Signature Theatre is located at 4200 Campbell Avenue. For more information and tickets, call (703) 573-SEAT or visit Signature-Theatre.org.
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