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Singing is like learning about life. You're given the gift of life and you learn to get through it. When you sing it's like having a gift ... you learn what to do with it, how to make it honest and how to make it do what you want it to do.

-Laurie Beechman, as quoted in United Press International,March 15, 1984


Broadway Column

When the Andrew Lloyd Webber- Tim Rice pop opera "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" was staged previously, the commanding role of the Narrator was always performed by a man. Until Laurie Beechman came along. Miss Beechman, a spunky entertainer with a high-voltage singing voice and enormous dark eyes, is wearing the harem pants of the Narrator in the new hit revival of "Joseph" at the Off Broadway Entermedia Theater.

"At first, the producers wanted a black actor for the role," the 27-year-old actress says. "The part was written for a man and Cleavon Little played it at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. But Tony Tanner, the director, was my champion all along. This is the biggest break of my career."

Miss Beechman had a big break once before, in 1977, when she made her Broadway debut playing a number of small roles in the chorus of "Annie." Her display of versatility in that show and her big voice won her widespread attention and a contract with Atlantic Records. Her first recording, a rock-and-roll album called "Laurie and the Sighs," came out in late 1979.

"I had really wanted to make a record," Miss Beechman says. "I was trying to get known as a singer. The record did well critically, and I went out on tour with my band, the Sighs. Everything was looking great."

Suddenly, everything looked bleak. "Four or five weeks into the tour, Atlantic Records changed presidents. I lost my corporate support. It's a very common story in the record business, but it was a very difficult time for me. Very painful. I wasn't prepared for the failure of it."

Miss Beechman returned to New York and began working wherever she could find a job. she sang jingles for television commercials and once had a booking for the opening act for two rock bands at the Palladium. Then she was hired for "Pirates of Penzance" on Broadway.

"I was the swing- the multiple understudy," she recalls ruefully. "For six months, I stood offstage in a booth, in darkness, augmenting the women's vocals. I got on stage four or five times."

Finally, she graduated to an on-stage role in the chorus. Three months later, "Joseph" came along.

"I took a half cut in pay to do 'Joseph,'" Miss Beechman says. "but there was no question that I'd take this job. For a year and a half, I couldn't get an agent to do anything for me- not even one audition. Now they're all calling."

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