From its infancy as a novel by Iris Rainer Dart through a blockbuster silver screen adaptation starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, “Beaches” continues to be an inspirational institution regardless of the layout. And after catching opening night of the timeless story’s pre-Broadway staging at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, chances are that pattern will continue thanks to an excellent cast, a mostly new soundtrack of satisfaction and a tale between two lifelong friends that aims straight for the heart, but packs just the right amount of comic relief in all the right places.
Attendees are sure to be shocked as the previously inseparable friends temporarily go their separate ways, though it makes their eventual reconciliation come across that much sweeter, especially when reinforced by Cee Cee’s breathtaking rendition of the show’s centerpiece “Wind Beneath My Wings” (Bette Midler’s chart-topping, double Grammy Award winner).
Like it’s two previous incarnations, “Beaches, A New Musical” chronicles the friendship of the brash, entertainer-in-the-making Cee Cee Bloom and the more conservative, fashion designer hopeful Bertie White, who meet on a beach in Atlantic City as mere children and nurture a friendship right up until one of them takes their last breath. Each actress cast in these lead roles (portrayed during childhood, their teen years and adulthood) seems tailor made for the part, especially the vivacious Shoshana Bean (“Hairspray,” “Wicked”) as the older Cee Cee and the emotive Whitney Bashor (“Bridges Of Madison County,” “Boardwalk Empire”) as an elder Bertie.
In addition to beautifully framing the girls evolving from pen pals to roommates with all the usual coming of age experiments in between, “Beaches” also succeeds at showing the eventual friction that develops between the two grown women, all at the hands of a misunderstanding involving their respective husbands. Attendees are sure to be shocked as the previously inseparable friends temporarily go their separate ways, though it makes their eventual reconciliation come across that much sweeter, especially when reinforced by Cee Cee’s breathtaking rendition of the show’s centerpiece “Wind Beneath My Wings” (Midler’s chart-topping, double Grammy Award winner).
As anyone who’s read the book or seen the movie can attest to, it isn’t smooth sailing for long as Bertie faces a health crisis and questions who will raise her one and only daughter should her life indeed be taken too soon. However, before accepting the inevitable, the two soulmates spend one more summer at the beach, dipping their toes in the imaginary sand and wading in the virtual water, casting all their cares back to the very first day they met. Anyone who makes it out the theatre with dry eyes deserves a prize, though this tear-jerker is by no means a downer, but rather a testament that friendship can last well beyond a lifetime and have just as profound of an effect on the subsequent generation.
“Beaches” continues various dates and times at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, IL through August 16. For additional details and ticket information, visit www.drurylane.com.