Laughter, tears and great music abound in “Born for This,” a new musical that reveals the early career of gospel music’s legendary duet, BeBe and CeCe Winans.
The production, which runs July 11 to August 6 at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, also contains little-known details about the pair’s journey from unknown teens to singing stars.
Described as a coming-of-age story, “Born for This” follows BeBe and CeCe from their home in Detroit, Michigan to Pineville, North Carolina to become singers on Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Praise The Lord Network. The cultural shock they experience combined with the temptations of fame and fortune result in a funny, yet emotional passage toward self-discovery.
“CeCe was 15 and I was 17,” said BeBe, who penned original music for the play. “It was the beginning of what I believe laid the foundation for our music career. We weren’t a duet. It was Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker that caused that to happen. That’s what’s so exciting about the musical.”
BeBe also noted that the musical emphasizes the importance of realizing God’s destiny for your life and allowing His plans to guide you.
“I had a chance to sometimes talk with people as they were leaving [the play]. They knew [that] once they left the theater that their life was not a mistake. You were born with a purpose,” he said.
“A lot of people who decided to walk away from their dream felt inspired to go after those dreams again. You’re never too old or too young. No matter what has happened in your life, you have a destiny.”
“Born for This” shares insight into the occupational dynamics of the famous Winans family as well. The storyline includes the perspectives of his parents and brothers and their career challenges.
“Our story is some form of music. We get a chance, in a theatrical way, to present my story and let the world know how it was to be raised in my household. It’s about my Mom and Dad, my brothers and their career and what happened, the rejection, the racism that happened in the South – all of those things that people don’t know about,” said Bebe.
The theme of family is further highlighted in the cast, which features the third generation of Winans. Juan and Deborah Joy Winans, children of Carvin Winans, Sr., star as BeBe and CeCe. Juan, a singer/ songwriter, earned a Grammy nomination as part of the group, Winans Phase 2.
Deborah Joy co-stars on the OWN TV series, “Greenleaf” and previously portrayed CeCe in the TV movie, “Whitney.” The cast also includes Chaz Pofahl as Jim Bakker, Kirsten Wyatt as Tammy Faye Bakker, Kiandra Richardson as Whitney Houston and Nita Whitaker as Mom Winans.
Charles Randolph-Wright, who co-wrote the book with BeBe, directs the Broadway-bound musical. A playwright and screenwriter, his directing credits range from the play “Motown: The Musical” to the film “Preaching to the Choir” to the “Freestyle” football commercial for Nike.
“I have to give honor to Charles Randolph-Wright, who was adamant that every person had to be cast in a high-standard way, even from the shade of color to height. When we opened in Atlanta last year (at the Alliance Theater), most of my family came to see and they were all in tears and just shocked at the casting, the story, everything,” said BeBe.
As he prepares for next month’s opening of “Born for This,” Bebe hopes audiences will respond like his family did – with joy, amazement and affirmation about their purpose.
“I believe the story of our lives can be inspirational to people. In life, there will be people who disagree with your goals – and that’s OK. But I didn’t give up. It’s what I’m still doing, and loving, to this day. I really believe this piece will help people understand that there is a purpose for your life. This isn’t just my story. It’s everybody’s story.”