The Secret Life of Bees - Previews

SFFrontRow
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #76
Posted: 6/2/19 at 10:30pm

Famebroadway2 said: "I saw the show today and loved it! It’s in excellent shape and dare I say it’s better than a lot of recent Broadway shows.
The final song today was a reprise if the title song “The Secret Life of Bees” with the full company. Also, their wasn’t any song about a movie star. I really hope it gets good reviews and transfers.
"

I saw it this evening and really liked it.

I saw Sheik’s Alice by Heart and pieces of the score for that show sounded similar to Spring Awakening. The score for this has a very different sound to those, and I thought the lyrics were much more straightforward to those in Spring Awakening (which I loved, and still listen to on my iPod).

I hope this transfers, and to a smaller intimate house like the Color Purple revival.

One thing for my performance. The show had no availability going in, but there were about 12 open seats in the three last rows. I guess that must be the nature of subscriptions.

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RippedMan
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #77
Posted: 6/3/19 at 12:15am

I hate that every adaption needs a title song. I thought the title song in this one was one of the weaker songs. 

Updated On: 6/3/19 at 12:15 AM
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #78
Posted: 6/3/19 at 12:33am

RippedMan said: "I hate that every adaption needs a title as I thought it was a lease o
Song
"

 

Come again?

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raddersons
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #79
Posted: 6/3/19 at 1:05am
The music & vocals in this show are PHENOMENAL. I got lots of tingles listening to this stellar score. Act II lost me for a little bit but brought me back with the last few scenes.

Some songs need a little work but I left this show feeling all sorts of feelings. Glad I saw it in a small house. This show has a future and I’m looking forward to where it goes.
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Kad
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #80
Posted: 6/13/19 at 10:17am

I saw this last night and have to say, I was not at all as taken as many here. Despite a powerhouse cast that sings the hell out of the score, I found the show overall to almost disappear as I was watching it. The plot is full of contrivances and conveniences, low-stakes conflicts that start and resolve on their own, and moments that we are told hold weight but don't demonstrate it. The primary conflict of Lily's mother's past with August could be- and is- resolved in one brief conversation that both characters put off having for no clear reason. Saycon Sengbloh's Rosaleen, meanwhile, seems like she will have an awakening to her own intellectual and civic potential and worth, but is merely given a very brief solo at the top of act 2 and then more or less is sidelined for the rest of the show before resolving to go out and do what she was going to do at the beginning anyway. Lily and Rosaleen are ostensibly the protagonists of the piece and should hold the thing together; the former has an uncompelling and thin conflict and the latter is shoved aside. 

When it comes to the three sisters, LaChanze's August is as saintly as the honey-slathered black Virgin Mary that the characters constantly invoke and worship in a nearly cult-like fashion, while June and May see their thin conflicts resolved on their own (with May simply resolving to... not be sad anymore? Very unclear). 

The burgeoning conflict for civil rights, although bringing harm to two characters over the course of the show, is mostly backdrop and played for easy sentiment, despite the fact that none of the central characters participate or do anything meaningful other than lament the state of things. Zach's imprisonment is resolved in just 10 minutes with no major struggle and entirely offstage, wrapping up with a neat optimistic anthem.

 Sheik's score is often lovely but, like most of Sheik's scores, seems to go nowhere. Songs don't give much insight into character, playing instead like individual pop songs. Susan Birkenhead's lyrics are often pedestrian or entirely meaningless (what, exactly, does the title song say about August, or bees, or anything?). Fortunately the cast is stacked with huge voices and performers who bring emotion and gravitas to everything, even when they're creating it from whole cloth. 

Gold's direction is fine but this seems like he is creating something as anodyne and inoffensive as possible as penance for his disastrous King Lear. 

I can't say it's a bad or unwatachable show. But it's just a remarkably weightless one, one that plays out like a summary of a plot rather than the real thing. 

"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
Pashacar
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #81
Posted: 6/13/19 at 12:52pm

^Agreed on most all points; anodyne is a great word for it.

Curious to see reviews tonight, but for me the show is definitely a misfire.

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macnyc
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #82
Posted: 6/13/19 at 2:54pm

Thanks, Kad, for your insightful comments. I don't have the skills to analyze performances like this. Often, I leave the theater feeling unsatisfied, and I struggle to understand why. But I think Kad nailed why I felt at loose ends that night!

Updated On: 6/13/19 at 02:54 PM
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ColorTheHours048
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #83
Posted: 6/13/19 at 3:39pm

I was there with Kad last night and his thoughts mirror mine. Just a lot of wasted opportunity here. A pleasant but weightless score (though I’d gladly listen to Sheik’s music before Birkenhead’s lyrics any day) and a book that should be a lot more significant than it is. Excellent talent, but I wish the material they were working with were as worthy of watching.

Updated On: 6/13/19 at 03:39 PM
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GilmoreGirlO2
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #84
Posted: 6/13/19 at 7:24pm
Just felt the need to thank Kad for his insightful review. I came away from the show agreeing with every word Kad wrote, as did the person I went with.

I just couldn’t connect with the show. The stakes feel so low and all of the moments the piece seems to be building to fell flat once we actually got there.
Zion24
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #85
Posted: 6/14/19 at 12:03am

Kad said: "I can't say it's a bad or unwatachable show. But it's just a remarkably weightless one, one that plays out like a summary of a plot rather than the real thing."

Just read a few reviews and looks like Kad is on the same page as the critical consensus. Despite good music and incredible performances (he, and others, single out Sengbloh and her singing) they seem to be encouraging a few more workshops to give the play some heft. 

Owen22
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #86
Posted: 6/14/19 at 12:27am
Apparently every single theater critic thought they were being original with variations of a "lacking sting" comment in their reviews.
SFFrontRow
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #87
Posted: 6/14/19 at 12:36am

I saw this a few weeks ago and I liked it (as noted previously), but Kad's observations really do ring true. 

And thanks to Kad for recognizing some good in this. He pointed out things that I see now need work. I did love the music and the performances, and see the book and focus of the musical needs further development. I went in expecting this to be a working project, and not necessarily fully complete piece.

I love Lynne Nottage, so I hope work continues on this.

Updated On: 6/14/19 at 12:36 AM
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RippedMan
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #88
Posted: 6/14/19 at 1:09am

Well, boo. I really enjoyed it for what it was. But I totally get the criticisms. I just hope we get a recording. 

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raddersons
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #89
Posted: 6/14/19 at 9:28am

SFFrontRow said: "I went in expecting this to be a working project, and not necessarily fully complete piece."

100%.Considering my last show at The Atlantic was Ain't No Disco (Oy), I think I was just glad to see a show that made sense in the space. But yeah, the book & some of the songs need work. I think I was excited more by the potential of this than of the actual production itself, because if it's worked on it could be spectacular.

I do stand by the fact that Duncan Sheik is incredible at setting a mood over the audience through his music. Spring Awakening, Secret Life of Bees, and even American Psycho have all cast that spell on me and I just get wrapped up in the moments and forget the flaws. Alice By Heart... well, the music is still pretty, at least.

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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #90
Posted: 6/14/19 at 9:45am

Very sorry to read these tepid reviews. Now I'm considering trying to see it again at the Atlantic in case the reviews hurt the show's chance at a transfer. 

However, with people like Green saying it has the potential to improve with more work, I'm wondering if they might try to do another tryout - maybe regionally. I feel like the multiple-tryout model has become more common recently (or maybe I've just become more aware of it as an option), with Hadestown being an obvious recent example of a show that started Off-Broadway, then went out of town to work on the show, and came back to New York. And it looks like Girl From the North Country might be on a similar trajectory. 

Anyway, I really hope this show has a future - if not on stage, then at least on a cast recording. 

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Kad
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #91
Posted: 6/14/19 at 10:06am

I'm of the mind that a show that is a mainstage production at one of the most prominent off-Broadway theaters should be at least a very nearly finished product, particularly when their tickets are approaching Broadway prices. And particularly when the show has had numerous workshops, as Bees had. 

"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #92
Posted: 6/14/19 at 10:08am

JBroadway, I don't know if Green was saying that. In his review, he seems to think the problem with the source material is structural:

Serious and honorable enough to make me ask whether a second draft should be attempted. Ms. Kidd’s novel, which spent two years on the New York Times best-seller list and was made into a movie starring Queen Latifah and Dakota Fanning, has a bit of a “Green Book” situation on its hands. Set in South Carolina in 1964, it’s the story of a white girl’s journey out of trauma, using the black civil rights struggles of the time as a backdrop.

In a novel, that may be fine; the backdrop stays in the background. Onstage, it can’t.

Updated On: 6/14/19 at 10:08 AM
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #93
Posted: 6/14/19 at 10:18am

macnyc said: "JBroadway, I don't know if Green was saying that. In his review, he seems to think the problem with the source material is structural:

Serious and honorable enough to make me ask whether a second draft should be attempted. Ms. Kidd’s novel, which spent two years on the New York Times best-seller list and was made into a movie starring Queen Latifah and Dakota Fanning, has a bit of a “Green Book” situation on its hands. Set in South Carolina in 1964, it’s the story of a white girl’s journey out of trauma, using the black civil rights struggles of the time as a backdrop.

In a novel, that may be fine; the backdrop stays in the background. Onstage, it can’t.
"

 

Fair enough - but anyway my point still stands about its potential for another pre-Broadway run. 

Updated On: 6/14/19 at 10:18 AM
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #94
Posted: 6/14/19 at 4:45pm
I’d love to see them beef up Saycon’s part as she was the most interesting to me. And make it a more buddy, girl power show. Show both of their journeys. And I do agree that LaChanze’s character could use some more depth and meat to it. She’s too saintly.
stanman
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #95
Posted: 6/14/19 at 9:09pm

Several posters are referencing a negative "critical consensus," but New York Magazine, The Guardian, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter have all given very positive reviews. The Jason Green review is the only negative one I've seen.

Iamme2
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #96
Posted: 6/15/19 at 12:23pm

stanman said: "Several posters are referencing a negative "critical consensus," but New York Magazine, The Guardian, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter have all given very positive reviews. The Jason Green review is the only negative one I've seen."

I saw the show last week- it’s beautiful !!! Jesse green seems to have a personal issue with Sam gold -

the review (his opinion ) is ridiculous 

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bwayphreak234
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #97
Posted: 6/16/19 at 6:17pm

I REALLY liked this a great deal. Overall, I found the production, score, and book to be incredibly strong. I would say this is about 80% ready for Broadway in its current state. The cast is stellar. LaChanze and Elizabeth Teeter are both excellent. I loved the staging and direction - lots of beautiful stage pictures. I would love to see this come to Broadway with some minor tweaks.

"There’s nothing quite like the power and the passion of Broadway music. "
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #98
Posted: 7/17/19 at 3:21pm

I have a lyric-writing masterclass with Susan Birkenhead next month. The amount of "buzz" (pun intended) this show is getting makes for a very exciting prospect when the day comes!

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Skip23
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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #99
Posted: 7/20/19 at 5:16pm

Maybe some things just aren’t meant to be adapted into a musical.

Or maybe just by the people who adapt certain projects.

(See Bees, Pretty Woman, Hadestown, Tootsie)

Bees felt like a lot of songs were thrown at a story to see what would stick. Not many did. But I want the OOBC recording!

The actors and voices, as is usually the case in NYC, were spectacular.

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Secret Life of Bees - Previews #100
Posted: 7/20/19 at 5:26pm

Skip23 said: "Maybe some things just aren’t meant to be adapted into a musical.

Or maybe just by the people who adapt certain projects.

(See Bees, Pretty Woman, Hadestown, Tootsie)"


I get PW and Tootsie, but Hadestown, wat? How is that an example of an adaption not meant as a musical/the wrong team for that project? Maybe I'm missing your point, but Hades doesn't fit with the other two (maybe three, I'm still unsure of Bees) from what I can tell.