*He ignored multiple phones calls while eating at a restaurant and spending time with his son. But the calls kept coming. And after a while, caller ID showed a missed connection — from a cousin, and then from his mom so he knew something was wrong, and he answered.
“Have you heard?” his mom said. He looked up from the table and saw the news broadcasting on a TV screen in the diner. His brother was dead.
And that was the most crippling incident of his life, Bebe Winans said.
12 years later, the play “Born for This,” depicting the lives of Gospel and R& B’s brother-and-sister-duo, Bebe and CeCe Winans, brought his brother Ronald back to life, again.
“My family wept when they saw Brad and Milton. They were misty-eyed because we missed them so much. It was like watching them again on earth.”
While actors Milton Craig Nealy and Brad Raymond played Pop Winans and brother Ronald Winans, respectively – leading the cast as Bebe and CeCe Winans’ are the singers’ real-life niece and nephew Juan and Deborah Joy Winans.
“It was quite amazing watching my niece and nephew; it was reminiscent because when my sister and I started out – CeCe didn’t have a lot of confidence singing on her own, but I did,” BeBe said. “And when we sang together CeCe’s confidence grew enormously and the same thing happened with Juan and Deborah Joy. So, it was amazing to watch them come into themselves before my eyes.” They did an amazing job, he said.
For Bebe, the duo’s coming of age story has meaning he saw only from hindsight.
“When you are a teenager you don’t think your life is being recorded for others to learn from it, or to be healed by it, or better yet to find strength through your fears and failures, he said. “But now I know these were god’s plans for my life.”
In one of his most memorable “Born for This scenes,” BeBe chooses kindness instead of spite with a man full of hatred.
“You have a choice. You don’t fight hatred with hatred. I’m a proud Christian, but these are tools for everyone. It’s just nice to be nice.”
Now 55- years-old, While Bebe Winans can’t really have his biological brother back he’s gleaned a few great lessons still, and hopes the “Born for This” audience can not only see the messages but also experience them in their own lives — while enjoying the fascinating depictions of his late brother and father.
In the play there are universal teaching with the same kind of principles:
“Choice, acceptance and love.” Winans pauses and says during an interview with EUR web
“You can be taught to love, but if you don’t take that teaching and put it into action it’s just a waste, Winans said. “When you are taught to love your enemy – It’s like come on that doesn’t make sense, but through experience, you learn you can turn your enemy into your friend.”
BeBe said in “Born for This” it’s proven that audiences get it; the play ran in Atlanta last year, and he enjoys hearing from people who were inspired to action.
The audiences appreciate when crew members don’t take short cuts with casting, BeBe said.
“Born for This” depicts young Bebe and CeCe Winans from the beginning of their careers; ages 15 and 17 through their 20s.
Also featured are Chaz Pofahl as Jim Bakker, Kirsten Wyatt as Tammy Faye Bakker, and Nita Whitaker as Mom Winans. Plus, Dyllon Burnside as Michael Winans and Howard, Desmond Sean Ellington as Carvin Winans and Alvin, and Michael Stiggers as Marvin Winans.
About the plays message – As Bebe was ending his chat with EUR web, he said:
“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 love 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 its everybody’s story.”
“Born for This” ran from July 11 through August 6 at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The production featured original music by six-time GRAMMY ® Award-winning artist BeBe Winans, and was directed by Randolph-Wright.
“Born for This” Facts:
- Oprah Winfrey came to the reading for “Born for This” and fell in love with Deborah Joy’s talent, and that’s how Deborah Joy was cast for OWN’s original TV series “GreenLeaf,” BeBe said.
- The best choice for Whitney Houston’s character was sweetened up.
- Bebe said he pleaded for Kiandra Richardson, who was scheduled for the last season of American Idol, to join the cast. Richardson showed up after casting was closed. But the crew videotaped her performance and when the Winans saw it they knew she was their Whitney. Richardson canceled her appointment with “American Idol.”