The new musical of “Beaches” begins previews Tuesday at Signature Theatre, so reach for your hankies and bathe in heartbreaking show tunes. Signature is sharing exclusive rehearsal video of Alysha Umphress and Mara Davi singing “What I Should Have Told Her” (music by David Austin, lyrics by Iris Rainer Dart).
Is it possible that weepie Broadway songs cluster naturally in genres?
. . . as in “For Good,” the ballad shared by Glinda and Elphaba at the end of “Wicked” (a sister number, in spirit, to the famed “Beaches” ballad “Wind Beneath My Wings”). Last year at the Hollywood Bowl, Kristin Chenoweth, the original Glinda, sang a version with a surprise amateur guest. The video went viral.
. . . which can range from from subtle (“Dividing Day” in Adam Guettel’s “Light in the Piazza”) to indomitable (“Not a Day Goes By” in Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along”) and torchy (“Time Heals Everything” from Jerry Herman’s “Mack and Mabel”) and even premature “This Nearly Was Mine” from “South Pacific”). “Beaches” director Eric Schaeffer likes “We Do Not Belong Together” from Sondheim’s Pulitzer winning “Sunday in the Park With George.” Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin sang it with ferocity in the original 1984 production.
. . . the final strain of “Somewhere” in “West Side Story,” the reprise of “I’ll Cover You” mashed up with “Seasons of Love” in “Rent,” and the melancholic finale “Song of Purple Summer” from “Spring Awakening.” Mara Davi of the new “Beaches” is always moved by “What I Did For Love” from “A Chorus Line,” rendered here (solo, not choral) by Idina Menzel with composer Marvin Hamlisch at the piano, from their 2010 White House performance.
CRIES *sniff* OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
Christopher Youstra, music director of the Olney Theatre Center’s current “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” recommends “Till We Meet That Day” from “Ragtime” and “Lady’s Maid” from “Titanic.” “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair” is a reliably shattering finale in “Hair,” and while “Les Miserables” has more than its share of songs that people swear moisten their cheeks every time, Eddie Redmayne earned his tears in the 2012 film version singing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”
Audra McDonald is renowned for championing composers the wider public may not know, and her recent concert tour featured this genuine tearjerker, “I’ll Be Here,” from Adam Gwon’s “Ordinary Days.”