BWW Review: The Music of the 60's is Alive and Well at Desert Theatreworks With BEEHIVE: THE 60'S MUSICAL
Let's be frank. A lot of us in the Coachella Valley remember the music of the 60's very, very well. Just the first few notes of familiar songs can ignite memories of young love, a memorable party, long ago friendships or a school dance. Indio's Desert Theatreworks is currently presenting Beehive: The 60's Musical, and as wonderful as the presentation on stage was, I was delighted to look around at the audience. Faces of a certain age seemed to literally light up as various songs started, friends and couples nudged each other as they recognized each iconic song, and smiles abounded everywhere.
The show is a jukebox musical presenting all or part of about 40 songs from the 60's such as "It's My Party," "Downtown," "Where the Boys Are," "Respect," "The Name Game," and a couple of dozen other equally familiar hits. Director Timm McBride has assembled an amazing cast of eight women, each taking turns delivering powerhouse solos, then joining with the others to provide doo-wop backings. The ladies are Alisa Bates, Leslye Martinez, Kelly McDaniel, Gina Notrica, Jessica Schuler, Suzie Thomas Wourms, and Ayanna Wilson.
Daniel Grey's set design was a series of large, brightly colored boxes stacked across the stage which the girls stood in between numbers. When the girls were in their boxes, they looked like a shelf full of dolls, ready for sale in their shiny cases. Each box was outlined with bright lights, and those lights cycled interesting patterns, changing from number to number. Usually when the girls returned to those boxes, they didn't stay there for long because every number had choreography, sometimes simple, other times quite complex. I just marveled that these eight ladies could remember lyrics, harmonies, and choreography for so many numbers. Musical Director Don Kelly and Choreographer Dani Jara must have burned the midnight oil during rehearsals!
As I was watching the show, I would say to myself, "Oh, this number's terrific. I must remember it and mention it." Problem was, I said that probably 20 times, so I'm going to take the diplomatic way out and simply say that I was knocked out time and time again! During intermission, I was chatting with a man sitting next to me, and he said, "So, do these girls travel all around the country doing this show?" I explained that they were all locals, and seven of the eight were DTW veterans. He seemed to be genuinely amazed that such incredible talent was present in a community-based theatre.
A shout out is in order for Michelle Mendoza's costumes. Each girl had four or five looks, including wig changes (Director McBride did double duty with the hair and makeup), and like the songs themselves, the clothing and hairstyles stirred up a whole new level of nostalgia. Through most of the first act, the girls were in dresses with full skirts and hair as tall as - well - beehives. In the second act, the girls started out in Carnaby Street Mod ensembles, then the changes became pretty frequent as the second act has a wider variety of musical styles. Leslye Martinez's knockout rendition of "Proud Mary" naturally had a fringed dress, and for "(Don't You Need) Somebody to Love," Suzie Wourms donned long, straight hair and Janice Joplin hippie wear.
Phil Murphy's lighting added to the liveliness of the show, with plenty of flashing and color changes. Technical Supervisor Tess Walker and Sound Designer Miguel Arballo led a large crew of operators through seamless technical demands.
I hate to give in to that "They just don't write 'em like that anymore!" cliche, but I knew almost every lyric in the show, and I certainly can't say that about many songs produced in the last twenty years. The best part is that these ladies are delivering them with the style and power that they deserve. We're spending an evening with old friends, and they look and sound terrific!
Beehive: The 60's Musical continues through January 26, with additional performances just added on Tuesday, January 21, and Sunday, January 26, both at 7:30. Tickets and further information are available at www.DTWorks.org.
Next up on the DTW stage is Neil Simon's Rumors, a comedy whodunnit with style, humor, and oh yes, a murder. Rumors plays February 7 through March 1.