BEACHES THE MUSICAL – ALYSHA UMPHRESS AND HER ROCKIN APPROACH TO BOOKING WORK
This is like, the greatest news!
Did you hear!?
Beaches, everyones favorite movie when they need a good laugh and a good cry, is being premiered as a MUSICAL at the Signature Theatre. Yeah, yeah, I'm super excited and I hope it will be amazing! But, the best part is that my love (birthday buddy, crocheting super star, one time Ellen's Stardust Diner partner in crime), Alysha Umphress, is playing the role of Cee Cee Bloom (the role originated by Bette Midler in the movie)!
I am so excited, so happy and so proud of Miss Umphress, I could squeal! I mean, watch this video – she is so stupid good I want to throw something at her!
Alysha and I worked together way too long ago at the infamous Ellen's Stardust Diner. You know, the diner in NYC on Broadway with the “world famous singing waitstaff.” That place is hands down the CRAZIEST place any human could ever decide to work. But, I made the BEST friends and learned more than I could have ever learned in any class. And, no matter how stressed, exhausted or overwhelmed I was, the fact that I was able to listen to Alysha wail on songs like Me and Bobbie McGee, Delta Dawn and Feelin' Good made it all worth while. Sometimes I would check in and say to my self, “Self, how on earth is it possible that this is your day job!? Are you the luckiest person ever or what!?” Then I would go back to the reality of the burgers and fries and forget about how lucky I was.
Alysha's approach to booking work was always different than mine, and while both were equally valid, I want to talk a little about the difference and her ability to stay focused on exactly the type of career she knew she wanted and deserved. I was never one to have a real specific goal as a performer. I knew I wanted to work, and that was about it. I threw myself at audition after audition. It didn't matter what the audition was for, if it was a show I thought I could pull off, I was there. Alysha was always more calculated in her auditioning. Sometimes we'd be talking about what auditions were coming up and sometimes she wouldn't be interested in going. I'd think – “HOLY HECK! You are so stupid talented why are you not working all the time?” The thing is, she was, just in a different way.
Alysha knew exactly what she was right for, and stayed focused on those projects. She didn't ever seem to have a need to be taking work for the sake of taking work. She was willing to turn things down if they took her out of the city for a long period of time or if they would keep her from being able to audition for bigger and better projects. She also was the queen of performing around NYC. Her voice is insane, so I'm sure people were begging her to sing at their night spots, but performing as much as she did was a great way to get local exposure. And, awesome for all of us cause we got to go out and support her.
I'll never forget the day that we were in our favorite yarn shop The Point Knitting Cafe (which is now sadly closed) and she got a call about being called back for American Idiot. This was when American Idiot was in pre-production, and I hadn't even heard of it. I remember thinking, man, she is so focused on knowing exactly what she is right for and sticking to that path. She was perfect for this show, ended up booking it, and staying with it to Broadway. I was able to see if both in it's out-of-town try out in Berkley, and on Broadway. I know that show isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I loved it and thought it brought something new to the Broadway stage and captured the angst that surrounded so many in my highschool generation with spot on precision. AND, if you've not heard the number in which Alysha is featured, Too Much Too Soon, it's worth a listen to hear her belt her face off. (Parent's – big language warning!)
Do your self a favor and see if you can get your hands on a copy of her album Alysha Umphress, Live at The Beachman Theatre. It's filled with jazz and broadway and a you know, some good ol' 70's funk. It's a good one for suresies.
Aly-shay – I'm so proud of you lady!!!