MEMORIES OF CATS
Laurie Beechman gets back into her Grizabella getup this month and will
do the role on Broadway beyond Labor Day. She first pounced on the part
in Novemeber 1983 when she opened the first national tour in Boston. Six
months later she bowed on Broadway and stayed there through 1988. The
house electrician during her tenure, Joe Newman, looked it up and discovered
that she was the longest-running continuous principal-player to work the
Winter Garden, surpassing Al Jolson and Angela Lansbury (but, now, not
Ken Prymus). "You know, I never got tired of it," she's amazed to admit.
Her favorite Cats memory? "I always had Chanukah in my dressing
room. I'd have the menorah, wine and bits of gelt, the prayer phonetically
printed on the wall. Ethan Fine, a guitar player from the orchestra, would
come up. It made quite a sight- kids in cat costumes celebrating Chanukah.
For me, that's the spirit of the place."
excerpt from Patrick Pacheco's article in
Newsday, as quoted
on Playbill Online
Laurie Beechman: When I returned to the show in 1991, it was a
personal triumph for me. I'd had cancer in 1989, another bout in 1991
and another one in 1995 and each time [the producers] Bernie Jacobs and
Gerry Schoenfeld promised me they would always make sure that if I wanted
to work again, they'd find something for me. I came back to the show in
1991 and 1992. Cats has been a lifeline and a family for me. It's
not like I'm the Cosmic Queen or anything, but Grizabella's journey--
her being shummed or misunderstood or feared-- ends with rebirth to a
new life. And to step into the shoes-- into the paws-- of this character,
to be constantly re-inspired with hope and second chances, has meant a
lot to me. I just feel such gratitude to be here and alive, doing this
role to the best of my ability and without compromise.
In Theater's Cover Stars Reflect on Broadway's
Past and Present- and Share Their Hopes for the Theater's Future (excerpt)
Laurie Beechman (Grizabella, Cats)
"I got to return to Cats in a kind of blaze of glory for the
record-breaking performance, and it took me back to many, many years
ago when Gillian [Lynne, choreographer] and Trevor [Nunn, director]
were around and they had real rehearsals. I hadn't been on Broadway
in five years, and seeing these unbelievably talented kids in the cast
and realizing that the show is as wonderful as I remember made the whole
experience very nostalgic and beautiful. My dreams for the future of
the theater? To live to see it flourish"
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