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During the whole time I have had cancer, I have fallen in love, gotten married, appeared on Broadway, done concerts and recorded three albums. My life didn't stop. I'm doing better work than I ever did.

-Laurie Beechman as quoted in The New York Times, 4/28/96

New Face
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 my eyes."

"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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