A Quintuple Threat in Annie
If you're an unknown performer hoping to get attention- as what unknown
performer isn't?- there are better shows than "Annie" to do it in. Let's
face it, up against seven adorable kids, plus a talented and show-wise
professional (Dorothy Loudon) giving the performance of her life, and
even a lovable dog, the odds are weighted against making an impression.
So, when Laurie Beechman says firmly, "I'm a member of the "Annie"
ensemble," it's not surprising that her declaration is shaded by a hint
of, well, impatience. Miss Beechman wants to be noticed by a lot of
people, and soon.
She is noticed, of course. Most of the subsidiary players in
the resoundingly successful musical cover at least a couple of roles.
Miss Beechman does more than a double up. she quintuples, playing a
stage struck newcomer to New York, a parlor maid, a Depression down-and-outer,
a radio entertainer and Frances Perkins, one of the pillars of Franklin
D. Roosevelt's New Deal.
"My greatest high is to sing in the 'N.Y.C' number," she said in an
interview at the Alvin Theater. "That's the one where I play a kid who's
just arrived in the big city, and I put down my bags and sing about
how my name will soon be up there in lights. It's as though it had been
written for me. Besides, it's a real Ethel Merman moment."
Miss Beechman, who is 23, reminds some theatergoers of Miss Merman.
Small (5 feet 4 inches, "sort of"), animated and emphatic in her speech
and gestures, she delivers a song with clarion-clear punch and precision.
When, as the character named Sophie the Kettle, she belts out a sardonic
salute to Herbert Hoover and the Depression, the result is a sharply
etched theatrical cameo.
"I'm not sure of how much of an actress I am," she said , a wide smile
emphasizing her high sheekbones and dark, deep-set eyes. 'But I love
that Hooverville scene for what it says and the ironic way it says it."
The Philadelphia-born Miss Beechman was an arts student at New York
University, a singing waitress- she still performs at the place where
she first sang, a club called Good Times, every Thursday night after
the curtain comes down on "Annie"- and earned her bread cutting countless
"demo" records and commercials. She is, she says, deeply interested
in the technical side of recording and preparing songs for her own album,
a mix of "rhythm and blues, pop stuff, middle of the road- everything."
She has also been heard at work on the sound track of Milos Forman's
movie version of "Hair," in which she plays one of the trio of girls
who sing the praises of "Black Boys."
In fact, she hopes to sing her way to prominence on the concert circuit
and so is not really counting too heavily on seeing her name "up there
in lights" on Broadway like the Star-to-Be character she plays in "Annie."
"I figure that a show which might be a great vehicle for me could easily
be years away," she said. "I'd be terribly frustrated being in an ensemble
situation in show after show, waiting for the big one. even now, I tend
to get impatient some nights. I want to flash my big teeth and roll
"I want to do big concerts," she added, grabbing two big handfuls
of air for emphasis. "I mean open-air concerts, on a grand scale. I
don't want to do Las Vegas stuff in a long black gown. I want to wear
my funky clothes. . . and be young while I'm young."
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