'Born For This': BeBe Winans Premieres Bio-Musical

BeBe Winans 2016
John Bayley

BeBe Winans

Stage show is helmed by ‘Motown: The Musical’ director Charles Randolph-Wright.

“This industry will tell you that your life is over at a certain age,” says six-time Grammy Award winner BeBe Winans with a laugh. “And that age is getting younger and younger. But this whole adventure has taught me that my purpose has only just begun.”

The adventure that gospel/R&B star Winans is talking about happens to be his first stage production, the musical Born For This: The BeBe Winans Story. Nine years in the making, the musical celebrated its world premiere on April 23 at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre with Winans matriarch Delores, television evangelist Jim Bakker (who played a pivotal role in Winans’ career) and Georgia Rep. John Lewis among the special guests. Performances will continue through May 15 at the Alliance. Then the show will travel to Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage for another series of performances from July 1 to Aug. 28.

Born For This chronicles the personal and musical journey of Winans, the youngest male member of Detroit’s renowned gospel family the Winans. He and sister CeCe launched their own singing careers as background vocalists on Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s television show Praise the Lord Club (PTL). The siblings’ ensuing popularity sparked a very successful and award-winning post-PTL career as the duo behind such contemporary gospel and R&B hits as “Lost Without You,” “Addictive Love," "I'll Take You There" and “Close to You.” Both also enjoyed noteworthy solo careers, with BeBe turning in memorable performances on such songs as “Abundant Life,” “Meantime” and “Grace,” among other projects. While exploring the proverbial trials and tribulations of Winans' life, the musical also features another important figure in his story: Whitney Houston, who sang backup on the first BeBe & CeCe record and tour.

Winans’ nephew Juan Winans and niece Deborah Joy Winans star as BeBe and CeCe in Born For This. Charles Randolph-Wright, director of acclaimed Motown: The Musical, co-wrote the book with Winans and doubles as its director. The play includes 25 songs: 24 originals plus one song from the BeBe & CeCe catalog. Fellow gospel star Donald Lawrence serves as the play’s music supervisor.

“I think people are surprised, but this isn’t a jukebox musical of BeBe and CeCe’s hits,” says Winans, who credits a 2007 conversation with legend Roberta Flack for motivating him to write the play. “This musical is in line with what our music has been over the years: a bridge to the secular and black spiritual worlds and to people in general touched by our humanity.”

A forward-looking Winans ticks off a series of planned offshoots: a book about the play, a cast album and another album featuring songs from the play and additional tracks sung by Winans family members and surprise artists. He is also finishing a solo album of standards and writing a screenplay for yet another project. There’s chatter beginning as well, says Winans, “about bringing Born For This to Broadway in 2017. So there’s a lot of work and excitement.”

In the meantime, Winans will be one of the more than 30 acts performing at the inaugural Grammy Park, a 10-concert series taking place this weekend (May 5-8) in Brooklyn, New York. He and fellow Grammy winner Hezekiah Walker will headline a free gospel concert at the Grammy-branded event, set for noon on Mother’s Day (May 8) at the Prospect Park Bandshell.


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