The wind beneath the wings of the musical adaptation of the film â€œBeachesâ€ 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, Signatureâ€™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 Dartâ€™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. (Itâ€™s turning out to be a rich year for fans of Ms. Midler, who will appear on Broadway this spring in â€œIâ€™ll Eat You Last,â€ a play about the Hollywood superagent Sue Mengers.)
Ms. Dart, who wrote the book and lyrics for the short-lived Broadway musical â€œPeople in the Picture,â€ wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book for â€œBeachesâ€ with Thom Thomas. The score is by David Austin, a young composer for whom â€œBeachesâ€ will be â€œhis first big thing,â€ according to Mr. Schaeffer. The show is scheduled to run Feb. 18 through March 23, 2014, in the Signatureâ€™s largest theater, which seats 274.
Mr. Schaeffer, who directed the recent Broadway revival of â€œFollies,â€ said he and the creative team spent time in December â€œworking intenselyâ€ on developing â€œBeachesâ€ into a full-scale production.
â€œItâ€™s a great title and you donâ€™t want to screw it up,â€ he said. â€œYou 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.â€
Ms. Dart said her experience with â€œThe People in the Pictureâ€ taught her a lesson about the value of working on a show outside New York before bringing it to Broadway.
â€œWe were lucky that we had Donna Murphy and that was a good thing,â€ she said in an interview. â€œBut I wish he had that time that they used to have where youâ€™re out of town. I want to retool and do all the work you can do a theater like the Signature.â€
In addition to being a classic weepy, the film is perhaps best known for the ballad â€œWind Beneath My Wings,â€ 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 â€” as of now. Will that cause â€œBeachesâ€ fans to run for the refund line?
â€œI think thereâ€™s a trap both ways, of it being there and not being there,â€ said Mr. Schaeffer. â€œI think as we continue developing it over the next year, weâ€™ll talk about it all the time. But at this point it feels like if weâ€™re going to do an original musical letâ€™s do an original musical. Weâ€™ll see how that goes. But I find that exciting.â€
Ms. Dart said it was â€œwonderfulâ€ to have â€œBeachesâ€ be a way for audiences to discover Mr. Austin, an under-the-radar composer.
â€œSo many of the young composers we heard were either Sondheim wannabes or Stephen Schwartz wannabes,â€ she said. But this was a sound that wasnâ€™t imitating either of those guys. This was a fresh new sound that blew me away.â€
Other productions announced for Signatureâ€™s new season features several new shows: â€œPride in The Falls of Autrey Mill,â€ a family drama by Paul Downs Colaizzo (â€œReally Reallyâ€); â€œCrossing,â€ a decades-spanning musical, set in a train station, from Matt Conner and Grace Barnes; and â€œCloak & Dagger,â€ Ed Dixonâ€™s new musical comedy sendup of 1950s film noir. The theater will also mount revivals of the musicals â€œMiss Saigon,â€ â€œGypsyâ€ and â€œThe Threepenny Opera,â€ as well as the Washington premiere of Philip Ridleyâ€™s play â€œTender Napalm.â€