Betty Buckley (Gypsy) and Andrea McArdle (State Fair) are the latest additions to the the Nov. 30 Laurie Beechman benefit concert at Philadelphia's Walnut Street. Sam Harris (The Life, The Jazz Singer) and pop singer Patti LaBelle will co-host the benefit. Also on board are Raymond Jaramillo McLeod (Jekyll & Hyde), Melissa Hart, Kevin Gray (Phantom of the Opera), Grant Prickett (La Cage Aux Folles), Karen Mason (Sunset Boulevard), Dodie Pettit (Phantom of the Opera), Dan Schiff (Anything Goes), Brad Little (Phantom of the Opera) and Laurie's sister Claudia Beechman.
The event may be of particular interest to Frank Wildhorn fans. The theatre will see a Jekyll & Hyde renunion of sorts, as Robert Evan, Linda Eder and Christiane Noll are all on the roster. Also, a reunion of the old Scarlet Pimpernel is a certainty. All three of the Broadway musical's original stars -- Douglas Sills, Terrence Mann and Christine Andreas -- have signed on for the benefit. Andreas and Mann are leaving the musical in early October, just before the premiere of a new version of the Wildhorn show starring Sills, Rachel York and Rex Smith.
Others who may appear include Bernadette Peters (Annie Get Your Gun), Davis Gaines (Phantom of the Opera) and Colm Wilkinson (Les Miz). (If a bomb drops on the Walnut on Nov. 30, the casting directors of theworld's many Webber and Wildhorn musical productions are in big trouble.) There is no word yet as to when tickets will go on sale. According to spokesman Tony Swanick, tickets will be sold only at the Walnut Street box office and will range in price from $25 to $1,000. Swanick hopes to have all the details in place in the next few days. Watch Playbill On-Line for further updates.
Rep. Jon D. Fox (R-PA), who represents the native Pennsylvania district of the late actress-singer Beechman, is putting together the concert to honor the performer, who starred in such Broadway productions as Cats and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and died of ovarian cancer Mar. 8, 1998 at age 43. Proceeds from the concert will benefit Gilda's Club, an organization which offers help to cancer victims.
The concert may also be recorded for release as a CD. A spokesman at Fox's office said they were talking with Varese Sarabande about recording the event. Among those talents who also might appear are Sam Harris (The Life), Andrea McArdle (Annie), Patti LuBelle, Donna Murphy (The King and I), and Bernadette Peters (Sunday in the Park with George). "Now that the date has been established, we will work along with the exceptional staff of the beautiful Walnut Street Theatre to produce a concert that will befit a star of Laurie's magnitude," said Fox.
The Walnut Street Theatre is an apt location for the concert; in March 1998, Beechman herself performed at the theatre in a benefit concert to aid an actor-friend also suffering from cancer.
Earlier this year, Fox introduced two bills honoring Beechman in Congress. One bill calls for funding to the National Cancer Institute to increase by $50 million over five years. The extra money would be used for ovarian cancer education. The second measure would result in a special U.S. Treasury Department commemorative coin bearing Beechman's likeness. Money culled from the sale of the coin would go to Gilda's Club. No word yet on their chance of passage.