Laurie Beechman: A Star To Be
Whether she wins a Tony Award on Sunday or not, Laurie Beechman is
a future star of the American musical stage.
After all, she was the original A Star To Be in ''Annie'' -- as well
as playing four other roles in that show -- and sings ''NYC'' on the
''Annie'' cast album.
Now she is a star in all but lights as the Narrator in ''Joseph and
the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,'' pushing, pulling and prodding the
audience and cast through the Broadway show. She sings solo or is featured
in 10 songs, and hers is the most heard voice on the cast album.
For her high-vitality work in fez and harem pants in ''Joseph and the
Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'' she received a Tony nomination for Outstanding
Featured Actress in a Musical. She has formidable opposition in the
category from three co-stars of the musical ''Nine:'' Karen Akers, Liliane
Montevecchi and Anita Morris. But Laurie -- there's no way you can think
of her as Miss Beechman with her big eyes, big smile, and big voice
-- could benefit from a split vote from ''Nine'' supporters. The Tony
(Antoinette Perry) Awards will be broadcast live from the Imperial Theater
on Broadway Sunday by CBS, 9-11 p.m.
Whatever the outcome, Laurie's immediate future is assured.
She already has been picked to star in another Broadway musical, ''Firebelle,''
tentatively set to open in San Francisco this fall and on Broadway early
next year. Laurie will play the world's first woman firefighter, Lillie
Hitchcock Coit. She also had a call for an audition for the Broadway
production of ''Cats,'' the London hit by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, composer
''I think my career is and always will be deeply rooted in Broadway
musicals,'' Laurie, 28, said in a recent interview.
''I don't know if I have a movie face, and I haven't done anything on
But she is interested in nightclub work -- ''I've been doing nightclubs
for years. I sang 'New York State of Mind' before Billy Joel and Barbra
Streisand.'' Last year she cut her first record, ''Laurie and the Sighs.''
She also was seen in the movie of ''Hair,'' in frizzy wig and hot pants
in the number ''Black Boys -- White Boys.''
While playing ''Joseph'' she tried out a new nightclub act at O'Neals'
Times Square, dashing there from the Royale Theater after the show for
an 11 p.m. performance.
''I felt like I was a person for the first time,'' she said of the act.
''Before I'd always felt I had to be someone else. I feel more confident
now. I feel I really could do something interesting. The songs are a
big reflection of how I'm feeling about myself.''
Laurie comes from Westmont, N.J. Her parents and both sisters sing,
but she is the first to make a professional career of it.
Laurie was a scholarship student in the acting program of the New York
University School of the Arts. ''Annie'' was her first Broadway role.
She was 23.
''After I auditioned for 'Annie,' (lyricist) Martin Charnin wanted me
in the show,'' she recalled, ''but didn't know for what role. By the
time I got to the Goodspeed (Opera House in East Haddam, Conn., where
''Annie'' originated) 'NYC' had been written for the Star To Be, and
I got to sing it.''
The show went to Broadway and was a big hit -- it's still running five
years later -- but Laurie's five roles plus walk-ons weren't exactly
what she wanted.
''For a while I called myself The Star Who Might Have Been,'' she laughed.
When she started in ''The Pirates of Penzance,'' she said, ''I sang
in a booth to augment the ensemble.'' She also was chorus ''swing,''
taking over whenever any of the regular girls took sick.
''Then they put me in the show -- and three months later I was in 'Dreamcoat.'
''I got a call from the casting director for the part of the Narrator,
and there was a six-foot black guy up for the same role. They'd always
cast a black man for the role before, to contrast with the blond Joseph.
But I'm dark and short and (director) Tony Tanner said, 'You're it.'
''For two weeks I was performing in 'Pirates' and rehearsing 'Dreamcoat'.''
When ''Dreamcoat'' opened, Laurie suddenly was a hot property.
''The week 'Dreamcoat' opened I got a call for an audition for 'Cats'.''
''I now have to make a decision about 'Firebelle.' I have the option
of staying with 'Dreamcoat'.'' And she still doesn't have an agent.
Laurie is single -- ''I've never been anything else'' -- loves New York,
water sports and old movies (''I Love Bette Davis and Mary Astor and
Katharine Hepburn''), restores antique furniture, paints and does needlework.
As the interview in her dressing room ended, she was off to Sardi's
for an early spaghetti dinner before the evening performance of ''Joseph
and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.'' She still was wearing a shocking
pink jump suit.
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