Well, my beautiful pal Laurie Beechman has finally lost her incredibly valiant struggle with cancer. I've only known her for four years, but it was a life-changing experience for me.
Laurie had asked to meet with me about doing an album, as she'd heard several of the ones I'd done and really liked the results I'd gotten with the singers. When we met, she told me that she just sensed that we were meant to work together and that we could make magic. Boy, was sheever right. We had the best time doing her albums. I will treasure forever the memories of our work sessions, where she and I and our musical director Lanny Meyers would sit and figure out how to present the songs we'd chosen. We were like The Three Stooges. And working with her in the studio was amazing. You could throw any piece of direction at her and she would deliver it a thousand percent and usually in one take. And even though, during the recording of "No One Is Alone," she was quite sick, she never complained, she never got negative, she just sang and sang and sang, with that beautiful soulful voice of hers.
She was such a fighter, and such a positive person, and the world is a better place for her having been in it. Her middle name was Hope, and that word epitomized Laurie. The one thing Laurie would not want is for everyone to go all maudlin and so I won't. I love her and I refuse to talk about her in the past tense, because she will be with me for the rest of my life. Her spirit survives in everyone who was touched by her. So, mourn, yes, but more importantly, celebrate the wonderful, warm, loving human being that was and is Laurie Beechman.
Record Producer, Varese Sarabande Records
As a child, one of my most treasured recordings was the original Broadway cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. As I played it repeatedly, I dreamed of being able to sing like the Narrator, who seemed to belt those notes right into my soul. Laurie Beechman's emotive, glorious voice called to me, and I was hooked.
In the sixteen years since I first heard that voice, it has remained a constant source of joy in this ever changing world. When I saw Cats in New York in 1988, I was delighted to see Laurie's name in the Playbill. And once I discovered how magical it was to see her onstage, there was no stopping me.
I returned to Cats whenever Laurie rejoined the cast, just to watch her heartbreaking portrayal of Grizabella. Each time, I was overwhelmed by the way that her powerful version of "Memory" seemed to shake the entire Winter Garden Theatre. I always looked forward to seeing Laurie onstage because she seemed to share with audiences every ounce of emotion and energy that she possessed.
I was aware that Laurie had been dealt a tough blow by being diagnosed with cancer in 1989 at a young age - and I was heartened each time I saw her beat the odds and return to the stage. Laurie filled her last nine years with more than many of us fit into a lifetime: she performed in Les Miserables, Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Show Off, Funny Girl, and The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber as well as numerous concerts and benefits. She also fell in love and enjoyed five wonderful years of marriage with her husband, Neil Mazzella. As if all of that weren't enough, she made time to record four albums, which will always be her legacy and gift to the world. In short, she never let cancer get in the way of living.
I was lucky enough to have met Laurie in 1991, and I was immediately impressed by her warmth, openness and spirit; I'd long admired her as a performer, but I grew to admire her multitudes more as a human being. In recent years, I've learned volumes about courage, beauty, and generosity from Laurie's example. Additionally, she was one of the most positive people I've ever met - she truly epitomized her middle name, Hope. She inspired me to try to cultivate similar qualities within myself; to strive to become a better person. Although she was neither a close friend nor a relative, Laurie Beechman has impacted my life in the deepest way, and always for the best.
It is a bit strange to think that I should feel so connected to someone with whom I had only one "real" conversation. But Laurie had an effortless power of touching the lives of those of us who were lucky enough to have crossed her path. Her sparkling eyes and endless smile conveyed a love of life so infectious that it would have been nearly impossible not to fall under their spell. At her funeral, someone mentioned that it was Laurie's greatest fear that her life would be erased and people would forget her. That will never happen. She will always live in my heart, as well as in the hearts of so many others. Laurie Beechman's voice of inspiration will continue to sing on beyond her all too brief life.
Faith L. Burwasser
Webmaster, The Laurie Beechman Website
Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember a time
I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again
Every streetlamp seems to beat
A fatalistic warning
Someone mutters and a street lamp gutters
And soon it will be morning
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn't give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And the new day will begin
Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale cold smell of morning
A streetlamp dies another night is over
Another day is dawning
It's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You'll understand what happiness is
Look! A new day has begun.
From the musical Cats, by Andrew Lloyd Webber.