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Laurie Beechman

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Broadway star and recording artist Laurie Beechman grew up in the Philadelphia area, the daughter of a singing restaurant owner and a mother who worked in community theater. She studied drama at New York University, but dropped out after two years and remained in New York singing in a rock band. In 1977, she made her Broadway debut in Annie, also making her recording debut on the cast album, and voiced a character in the children's television movie The Fourth King. She appeared in the film version of the Broadway musical Hair in 1979 and was on the soundtrack album. In 1980, her band, Laurie & the Sighs, released a self-titled album on Atlantic Records and toured. She returned to Broadway in Pirates of Penzance in 1981, then got her first substantial role in a Broadway musical playing the part of the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which earned her a Tony Award nomination in 1982. In 1983, she was cast in the role of Grizabella in the first national touring production of Cats, then moved to Broadway in the part, remaining with the show more than for five years. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1989, but managed to continue her career during periods of remission from the disease. In 1990, she took over the role of Fantine in the Broadway production of Les Miserables, playing the part for six months. That November, she released her debut album, Listen to My Heart, on DRG Records. In October 1992, she married Neil Mazzella, a theatrical set builder. She performed in cabaret and in concert, with occasional returns to Broadway and regional theater. She released her second album, Time Between the Time, in 1993, and her third, The Andrew Lloyd Webber Album, on Varèse Sarabande, in 1995. Her fourth and final album, No One Is Alone, a collection of inspirational songs from Broadway musicals, was released in 1996. She died of complications from ovarian cancer in 1998. ~ William Ruhlmann