The Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace is sticking its toes into the complicated waters of pre-Broadway tryouts, aiming to provide new competition for the more costly Broadway in Chicago venues when it comes to tempting Broadway producers who want to develop their new work in the highly attractive Chicago theater market. The first foray will be the musical version of the 1988 Bette Midler movie “Beaches,” probably best known for the song “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
The show premiered at the Signature Theatre in suburban Washington D.C. last season (in the Washington Post, critic Peter Marks called the show â€œan amiable throwbackâ€). The project is aiming for a Broadway theater in the 2015-16 season. â€œBeachesâ€ will be directed at the Drury Lane by Eric Schaeffer, who also directed the premiere. Opening night in Oakbrook Terrace is July 2. The show will run through Aug. 16.
“Beaches” is produced by Jennifer Maloney-Prezioso, who will be financially backing the Drury Lane production. â€œThey felt like they needed one more step before Broadway,â€ said Kyle DeSantis, the president of the Drury Lane. â€œWeâ€™re that step.â€
At the Signature, the show starred Mara Davi and Alysha Umphress in the roles originated on film by Midler and Barbara Hershey. However, DeSantis said that current plans call for recasting some or all of the show, most likely with Chicago-based actors. The Drury Lane lacks some of the technology you can find in the theaters on Broadway and in Chicagoâ€™s downtown theater district, but DeSantis said that heâ€™d made comparisons between his theater and the La Jolla Playhouse in California, which stages many new musicals. â€œThere really isnâ€™t much difference between them and us,” DeSantis said. â€œWeâ€™re about the same budget and physical size, our location is great and we have a demographic that mirrors that of Broadway. We have a large subscription base and we run longer than most regional theaters.â€
That length of run allows creatives more time to work on a show without racking up the costs associated with the big venues in downtown Chicago, while still drawing from the same talent pool.