The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp DC Review

You're everything I wish I could be
I could fly higher than an eagle
Because you are the wind beneath my wings.

—Cee Cee describing her friendship with Bertie
L to r: Mara Davi as Bertie and Alysha Umphress as Cee Cee i (Photo:Margot I. Schulman)
In 1951, two little girls meet at the beach. Their lives could not be more different. Cee Cee, the quintessence of a tough talking kid from New Jersey, with a coarse mother who cannot refrain from making snarky (but humorous) remarks about everything, has little in common with Bertie (short for Roberta), a prim and proper little miss, the daughter of a prim and proper young widow. Both mothers have big but differing ambitions for their daughters.

Pried away from the beach by their mothers, the young girls vow to write letters (remember letters?) to one another which they do. Three actresses of relevant ages play Bertie and Cee Cee as we follow their relationship from childhood to teenage to adulthood. Their friendship has its ups and downs, with times of elation and times of utter hatred and jealousy. But it lasts thirty plus years.

Originally a novel and then a film, and now the musical Beaches premiering at Signature Theatre. It runs down a checklist of the phases women go through as their lives progress and change.

As always at Signature, the musical elements are splendid. Director Eric Schaeffer has again put together an excellent ten-piece orchestra and selected actors whose voices are pitch perfect for their characters.

Heading the cast as Cee Cee is Alysha Umphress, a powerhouse of emotion and sharp-tongued sass with a considerable resemblance to Bette Midler, the movie's Cee Cee. Umphress has excellent comic timing as well as a very versatile and beautiful voice. She belts, she croons and her rendition of the ballad "The Wind Beneath My Wings" is as stirring as was the number when sung by Midler at this year's Oscars.

Bertie, Cee Cee's BFF (Best Friend Forever) is far more gentle and vulnerable. While Cee Cee's upbringing was at best crude, Bertie was brought up to believe that doing the right thing meant marrying a man who would make a good living, have a certain status in the community and to hell with the problem that he was boring. Mara Davi, familiar to watchers of the television series Smash, is everything Cee Cee is not. She's delicate, polite, naive (for a while). No wonder these opposites see life's choices differently but find each other's advice worth noting.

One of the evening's highlights, of which there are many, are the duets sung by Cee Cee and Bertie, particularly "This is the Life," "A Day at the Beach," and "God Gave You Me." No sniffles here but each song was very affecting.

John and Michael, the foils to these women, are also well cast as the men they marry. Cliff Samuels's Michael is suitably conservative in his dress and manner. The part of John, the show biz charmer, may be thankless in that as it is written it is a cliché but the good news is that Matt Scott, a truly talented performer , makes the most of his solos, "Ce-Celia," and "44th Street."

Beaches is very well cast and directed but where the show falters is in its script which includes such trite expressions as "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" Oh, puleeze.

Some judicious pruning is needed. The first act is highly repetitious and trite, making some of the scenes too long and somewhat boring. The second act, which has more action and less talk, moves faster, but not fast enough.

Derek McLane's set consists of piled up chairs, bureaus, and whatnots neither adds nor detracts. It is a neutral background against which costume designer Frank Labovitz and particularly choreographer Dan Knechtges use dated styles from the 1950's through the 1980's with its bell bottom trousers and disco dancers sliding across the floor.

Even though this world premiere of Beaches, the musical has its faults, the elements that are good are well worth the time.

Book by Iris Rainer Dart and Thom Thomas
Music by David Austin
Lyrics by Iris Rainer Dart
Based on the novel Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Choreography by Dan Knechtges
Cast: Brooklyn Shuck (Little Bertie); Presley Ryan (Little Cee Cee); Donna Migliaccio (Leona Bloom); Helen Hedman (Rose White); Teen Bertie (Maya Brettell); Gracie Jones (Teen Cee Cee); Mara Davi (Bertie); Alysha Umphress (Cee Cee); Cliff Samuels (Michael Barron); Matthew Scott (John Perry); Michael Bunce (Arthur Wechsler); Svea Johnson (Nina); Bayla Whitten (Janice.)
Music Supervisor, Mary-Mitchell Campbell < br> Music Director/Conductor of a 10-piece orchestra, Gabriel Mangiante
Dance Captain, Robbie Roby
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes with one intermission.
Signature Theater, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, Va. 22206;; tickets $35 to $105; 703-573-7328; February 18 to March 30, 2014.
Review by Susan Davidson based on March 2 matinee, 2014.

Musical Numbers
Act One
    The Letters (You're Out There)/Little Bertie, Little Cee Cee, Teen Bertie, Teen Cee Cee
    Extraordinary/Teen Bertie, Teen Cee Cee, Bertie, Cee Cee, Little Bertie, Little Cee Cee
    This is the Life/Bertie, Summer Stock Company, John and Cee Cee
    What a Star (reprise)/Cee Cee
    This is the Life (reprise)/Cee Cee and Bertie
    The Best of It/ Cee Cee, Bertie, Michael and ensemble
    My Perfect Wedding/Little Bertie, Little Cee Cee, Teen Bertie, Teen Cee Cee, Bertie and Cee Cee.
    44th Street/John
    The View from Up Here/Cee Cee

Act Two
    (I'm) All I Need/Cee Cee and ensemble
    Enough/John and Cee Cee
    What I Should Have Told Her/Cee Cee and Bertie
    A Bunch of Kids/Bertie
    Normal People/Cee Cee and Bertie
    The Wind Beneath My Wings/Cee Cee
    Nina's Letter/Nina
    A Day at the Beach/Cee Cee and Bertie
    God Gave You Me/ Cee Cee and Bertie
    Out There/Cee Cee

Musical Numbers

Act One

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Beaches
  • I disagree with the review of Beaches
  • The review made me eager to see Beaches
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message
The New Similes Dictionary
New Similes Dictionary

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show amazon

©Copyright 2014, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from