EXCLUSIVE: Get Out Your Handkerchiefs! Beaches, the Musical, Is in the Works

By Kenneth Jones
April 28, 2011

Novelist Iris Rainer Dart's current Broadway debut as a librettist and lyricist of the musical The People in the Picture is a warm-up to the writer's next show — a musical version of her bestselling novel "Beaches," a property better known as a hit film starring Bette Midler.



Dart told Playbill.com that she's writing the lyrics and co-writing the libretto for Beaches, the musical, which will draw from her novel rather than the screenplay of the 1988 movie (which altered some elements of the 1985 book).

"We are nearly ready to start showing it to producers," Dart said of the developing show.

The musical (with music by composer David Aaron Austin) will still follow childhood gal-pals Cee Cee (a red-headed loudmouth who wants to be a star) and Bertie (whose dreams are more traditional) from the 1950s to the 1980s, when the latter is stricken with illness. Over those years, the friends reunite on beaches around the world. Both the book and the film were get-out-your-handkerchief experiences for fans.

Dart's collaborator on the musical's libretto is playwright Thom Thomas (A Moon to Dance By, The Interview). Leonard Foglia (Master Class, The People in the Picture) is attached as director, Dart said.

"The composer, David Aaron Austin, is half my age and when I work with him I feel as if I am half my age," Dart said. "I am thrilled to have the opportunity to tell the story of those characters with music. I have learned so much from the experience of creating The People in the Picture that I hope I will be able to bring to the new show. Just need a week or two at home and we start up again."

Dart said that Austin "is a composer who can work from either lyrics first or music first. He has written the book and lyrics and music for his own shows, and has a great sense of what is theatrical. We talk a lot about the characters and always go back to them for inspiration about when and where and what they would sing."

The stage musical is a not a lift of the film's screenplay, she said, "but the spirit is the same."

Dart said she was the one who took "Beaches" to Bette Midler "when it was only three chapters and an outline of a book. Garry Marshall, who directed the film, was a mentor of mine who taught me how to write comedy — so there was much for me to love in the film.

"I didn't write the film of 'Beaches.' I think Bette decided to make the movie because Cee Cee is a character who has legitimate reasons to sing. [Bette] tells me that people still stop and tell her that was their favorite film in which she starred."

Dart added, "I'm chomping at the bit to finish [the musical] and cast it and get it happening. I told a friend the other day that I only want to spend the rest of my life — I hope it's a lot of years — working in the theatre."