The wind beneath the wings of the musical adaptation of the film “Beaches” has landed the show a home. This week the Signature Theater in Arlington, Va., announced that it will produce the show as part of its 2013-14 season. Eric Schaeffer, Signature’s artistic director, will direct the production, which has been talked about for a Broadway run. Casting is still to be announced.
In an interview Mr. Schaeffer said the musical is based on Iris Rainer Dart’s 1985 novel, itself the inspiration for the 1988 film, directed by Garry Marshall, that starred Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler as lifelong friends whose relationship is tested by single parenthood, strained romances and a fatal illness. (It’s turning out to be a rich year for fans of Ms. Midler, who will appear on Broadway this spring in “I’ll Eat You Last,” a play about the Hollywood superagent Sue Mengers.)
Ms. Dart, who wrote the book and lyrics for the short-lived Broadway musical “People in the Picture,” wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book for “Beaches” with Thom Thomas. The score is by David Austin, a young composer for whom “Beaches” will be “his first big thing,” according to Mr. Schaeffer. The show is scheduled to run Feb. 18 through March 23, 2014, in the Signature’s largest theater, which seats 274.
Mr. Schaeffer, who directed the recent Broadway revival of “Follies,” said he and the creative team spent time in December “working intensely” on developing “Beaches” into a full-scale production.
“It’s a great title and you don’t want to screw it up,” he said. “You want to give it the time it needs to be born and the space to make it what it wants to be. We can do that here and provide that opportunity for the writers.”
Ms. Dart said her experience with “The People in the Picture” taught her a lesson about the value of working on a show outside New York before bringing it to Broadway.
“We were lucky that we had Donna Murphy and that was a good thing,” she said in an interview. “But I wish he had that time that they used to have where you’re out of town. I want to retool and do all the work you can do a theater like the Signature.”
In addition to being a classic weepy, the film is perhaps best known for the ballad “Wind Beneath My Wings,” a hit for Ms. Midler. But Mr. Schaeffer said that song and all of the other musical numbers from the film are not in the new score — as of now. Will that cause “Beaches” fans to run for the refund line?
“I think there’s a trap both ways, of it being there and not being there,” said Mr. Schaeffer. “I think as we continue developing it over the next year, we’ll talk about it all the time. But at this point it feels like if we’re going to do an original musical let’s do an original musical. We’ll see how that goes. But I find that exciting.”
Ms. Dart said it was “wonderful” to have “Beaches” be a way for audiences to discover Mr. Austin, an under-the-radar composer.
“So many of the young composers we heard were either Sondheim wannabes or Stephen Schwartz wannabes,” she said. But this was a sound that wasn’t imitating either of those guys. This was a fresh new sound that blew me away.”
Other productions announced for Signature’s new season features several new shows: “Pride in The Falls of Autrey Mill,” a family drama by Paul Downs Colaizzo (“Really Really”); “Crossing,” a decades-spanning musical, set in a train station, from Matt Conner and Grace Barnes; and “Cloak & Dagger,” Ed Dixon’s new musical comedy sendup of 1950s film noir. The theater will also mount revivals of the musicals “Miss Saigon,” “Gypsy” and “The Threepenny Opera,” as well as the Washington premiere of Philip Ridley’s play “Tender Napalm.”