Grammy winner BeBe Winans brings his story to life in the musical “Born for This” that’s playing at Arena Stage through August. Co-written by Winans and director Charles Randolph-Wright, the play charts his life, but also that of his sister CeCe Winans and the rest of the Winans musical dynasty.
The two-hour, 15 minute “Born For This,” is jam-packed with 32 songs that are familiar to most gospel music fans and sure to strike a chord with those hearing the songs for the very first time.
Keeping it in the family, siblings Deborah Joy Winans and Juan Winans take on the role of their aunt and uncle. Deborah Joy Winans not only captures CeCe’s voice, but with her similar looks also manages to convey the sweetness and humility her aunt has become known for.
Juan Winans portrays BeBe as young man with a good heart, trying to navigate his new-found fame and the accompanying challenges and choices that he faces. His vocal abilities are on point, proving that the Winans musical prowess is continuing in later generations, notably on “I Won’t Stop,” “Book of Life” and the title song.
The story would not be complete without touching on their early beginnings on PTL. Kirsten Wyatt does a great turn as Tammy Faye Bakker. Those familiar with the Bakkers and PTL would agree that Wyatt seems to embody the late Tammy Faye in speech and mannerisms, sharing great truths with a super-sized persona. Wyatt’s character evokes many bouts of laughter as she deliver her lines with sass. Chaz Pofahl delivers as well as Jim Bakker.
Brad Raymond portrays the late Ronald Winans and makes a huge impression with his performance. Raymond’s portrayal shows Ronald as balanced and an encourager, often offering gentle rebuke to BeBe and the other brothers. His death and its aftermath is one of the most emotional scenes of the evening.
Grammy winner Donald Lawrence is music supervisor and Steven Jamail serves as the music director. William Ivey Long’s costumes, Warren Adams’ choreography, and Diane Ferry Williams’ lighting are all first class and give the musical an off-Broadway feel.
“Born For This: The BeBe Winans Story” boasts a brilliant cast that delivers drama, comedy and great songs. Underneath it all is a story of forgiveness and redemption that will surely resonate with audiences with its story of discovery, faith and hope. With Randolph-Wright involved, perhaps the show will make its way to Broadway. We’ll be waiting.
“Born For This: The BeBe Winans Story” plays at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater – 1101 6th Street, SW in Washington, DC. and runs through August 28. For tickets, call the box office at 202-488-3300 or purchase them online.