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Beaches: Idina Menzel on ‘daunting task’ of following Bette Midler

A whole new generation of viewers will get to experience Beaches via Lifetime’s upcoming original film, but following in the footsteps of legendary actresses Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey was a daunting task for Idina Menzel and Nia Long.

Menzel will take over Midler’s role of CC, an aspiring singer who develops a lifelong friendship with a rich girl named Hillary (Hershey in the original, Long in the update) at the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In Lifetime’s remake of the 1988 classic, however, the pals connect at the Venice boardwalk in Los Angeles.

“If I’m being completely honest, I was terrified at first,” Menzel said at the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Friday. “Both those women, especially Bette Midler for me, was an idol my whole life. I continue to be inspired by her, but it’s a daunting task.”

Long concurs: “It was definitely challenging and fun,” she says. “There were those scenes where we had to bond as best friends. It was really natural. We really have an understanding of life, and we both have our own best friends and we’re both mothers, so a lot of the themes in the film really resonate pretty easily. It’s about making those scenes your own and honoring the original film… When you’re afraid of something, that’s the one thing you should do.”

Still, Menzel says she felt like she “could spread my wings in this role,” particularly when it came to the music. The Frozen and Rent star says she spent about an hour in the recording studio laying down the track for Midler’s famed “Wind Beneath my Wings.” “I’m a perfectionist; I did it a bunch of times,” Menzel says. “I sang it a sh–load of times… I had been singing the song my whole life, ever since I was a wedding singer and bar mitzvah singer… I’m well-rehearsed, it was just trying to find my own spin on it.”

The Beaches remake also puts its own spin on the music. “What we were able to do is update the friendship… and update the music,” director Allison Anders says. “Idina does such beautiful versions of ‘Wind Beneath my Wings’ and ‘The Glory of Love,’ but we also have some new stuff in there as well.”

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