BWW Review: BEEHIVE is a Blast at The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse
Just like that the 2018 season ends at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York - and it ends with the empowering and mesmerizing production of Larry Gallagher's Beehive: The 60s Musical. First off, I am not a fan of "jukebox musicals," but I guess there is always an exception and it is this production at the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival.
The musical showcases the songs of the 1960s, centering on some of the most powerful and passionate female performers from that era and, might I add, the history of the American music industry. The musical is just pure fun and memorable for those of that generation. I may not be of that generation, but I grew up listening to that music (thanks Mom!) and I loved every minute.
The musical itself does not have much of a book, or character development, but in this case, it is perfectly okay. Basically, it is about some girls recalling how many female singers of the 60s got them through those awkward teenage years. Their role models were the Shirelles, The Supremes, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, etc. To that end you will hear all those classic hits such as "One Fine Day," "It's My Party," "My Boyfriend's Back," "Chain of Fools," "Somebody to Love," "Proud Mary," "Cry Baby," just to name a few. The musical does dive into the social issues of the times and those moments are deeply moving; however, like the glitzy/fun numbers take center stage.
Director, Choreographer, and Artistic Director of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival Brett Smock, his creative team, and his cast bring the musical to life with stunning detail. It's apparent that everyone onstage and in the audience are having a blast during this show. How could you not? This show has visual appeal, powerhouse performances, and killer songs. The costumes, the voices, and the hair absolutely steal the show.
Music Director Corinne Aquilina and the live on-stage orchestra get the party going strong right from the start as they play the "Overture" with intoxicating energy.
Costumer Tiffany Howard and Wig and Makeup designer Alfonso Annotto add tons of dramatic flair to the performances. Howard's costumes effortlessly transition whether between musical numbers or in the middle of one. Alfonso Annotto's detailed and show-stopping wigs also help bring those powerhouse female legends to life. The number of wigs in the show is impressive, his hard work and devotion add so much to the performances and the girls certainly worked every strand.
Scenic designer David Arsenault's set adds so much to the experience. The actresses worked those staircases in gorgeous spiked heels. Dan Ozminkowski's lighting lifts the energy level even higher.
No worries, the cast does not disappoint either. The production features eight incredible and memorable actresses showing off their powerhouse vocals, killer dance moves, and charm.
Like any show there are some performers that are more memorable than others though. Brittney Mack gives a killer performance as Tina Turner. Mack steals the show with her killer pipes and personality - she even works her dress and hair right before singing the favorite "Proud Mary." She also has a standout moment singing the Shirelles classic "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." Her performance is one of the most memorable performances of the 2018 season at The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival.
Emily Lynne Miller's line delivery, spunk, comedic timing, and vocals certainly stick out. Her facial expressions also made her a standout in many of the ensemble numbers.
Crystal Sha'nae portrays the "Queen of Soul," the legendary Aretha Franklin with full force. She enters the stage in all the glory and drama - just as Ms. Franklin would do - and delivers a killer performance of "Never Loved a Man," which charms the audience. Backed by Brittney Mack and Quianna Holmes, she also delivers a soulful performance of "Chain of Fools."
I do admit hearing a recording of Janis Joplin, I was never a fan. Abigail Raye's performance certainly changed my mind. Her power, passion, vocal control is truly breathtaking. She throws every ounce of power, emotion, and passion into "Try," "Me and Bobby McGee," and her standout performance of "Cry Baby." Raye is a truly talented and versatile singer with a raspy voice that stands out from the crowd.
The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse's 2018 season goes out with a bang thanks to these powerhouse actresses. Beehive is one of those shows that it is easy to love with all its glitz, music, and powerhouse characters. It is a definite must-see for people of all ages.
Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission.
Beehive runs through October 6, 2018 at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York as part of the 2018 season the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival. For tickets and information on this production and the upcoming 2019 season, click here.