'Cats' Actress Beechman Dies at 43
Mar. 10, 1998
NEW YORK (AP) _ Laurie Beechman, the longest-running Grizabella in Broadway's longest-running hit, ``Cats,'' has died. She was 43.
Ms. Beechman died Sunday in her White Plains home of complications from ovarian cancer, according to her agent, Jim Wilhelm.
She belted out her songs much in the style of Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland, two of her early idols, and brought piercing character to Grizabella's signature song, ``Memory.''
Born in Philadelphia, she studied at New York University and made her Broadway debut in 1977 as the ``Star to Be'' in the original cast of ``Annie.''
She later was cast as narrator in ``Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,'' for which she got Tony and Drama Desk nominations for best featured actress in a musical.
She took on the part of Grizabella in the touring company of ``Cats'' in 1983, and four months later stepped into the part on Broadway, which she played on and off for more than five years.
Ms. Beechman was playing ``Grizabella'' when the show became Broadway's longest-running hit, surpassing ``A Chorus Line.''
After her cancer was diagnosed in 1989, she joined the touring company of ``Les Miserables,'' in which she played Fantine, and the touring production of ``The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Sunset Edition.''
At President Clinton's 1997 inaugural gala, she sang ``You'll Never Walk Alone.''
Her most recent solo album was ``No One is Alone.''
She became a role model and advocate for those with cancer, telling The New York Times: ``The perception people have of cancer is that you're cured or you die, and that's not necessarily how it works. It can be more like diabetes, a part of life.''
Survivors include her husband, stage designer Neil Mazzella, and her parents, Nathan and Dolly Beechman Schnall.
Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday in Philadelphia.