BWW Review: Celebrating Girl Power with BEEHIVE The 60's Musical
BEEHIVE is a musical so jam-packed with hits that it's almost overwhelming. Though this show is not a traditional musical so much as it's a musical revue, there is a nice loose plot running through the whole production that serves to give the songs political and social context and really drive home how tumultuous the 1960s were and how dramatically different the early part of the decade was from the end of it. The cast of seven women start out as young adults, and then as the time of the songs passes, they grow up, learn more about the world, and channel that knowledge back into the music. It's a fun night of nostalgia, but also one that doesn't completely sugarcoat the problems of the past.
BEEHIVE starts out set in a typical teen girl bedroom and the cast introduce themselves to use via The Name Game. Inuka Ivaska as Wanda serves as a kind of MC, setting the stage for the audience with what is happening in the world at the time of the songs. Act I includes such gems as Where Did Our Love Go? You Can't Hurry Love, My Boyfriend's Back, One Fine Day and Be My Baby. The songs of this time period are primarily about boys and love, and the bright costumes and bouncy choreography convey this idea perfectly.
One downside of Act I was that despite strong vocal performances, many of the songs seemed rather rushed, and the some of the cast were a bit low-energy. There are 19 songs in the first act as compared to 14 in Act II, so sometimes it felt like they were just getting started with one tune and then it was into the next. Perhaps it was just the pace of changing songs so rapidly, but the first act wasn't quite as tight or polished as it could have been, despite excellent performances from Amanda Lea LaVergne and Kendall Hope.
Act II is considerably stronger as the 1960s move into the more serious Vietnam years, and onto more serious performers like Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. Karissa Harris absolutely becomes Tina Turner in River Deep, Mountain High and Proud Mary. She has the voice and the moves and is just fantastic to watch. Similarly, Alana Cuthen, a standout from last season's Smokey Joe's Cafe, shines as Aretha Franklin with Chain of Fools and Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You). It's incredibly daunting to tackle songs pioneered by the amazing Aretha, but Cuthen has it well in hand. Her voice is powerful and soulful, and in a stunning red dress with a feathered shawl, she commands the stage without need for anything else.
Act II ends with Merrill Peiffer taking on the three best-known hits from Janis Joplin. While Merrill certainly looks the part and has a beautiful singing voice, her performance is not quite as gritty and raw as what Janis was known for. Added to that is the fact that three Janis Joplin songs after only hearing two from Tina and Aretha and just one from Carol King, seems like a bit too much, and an odd choice. The show finishes out with Make Your Own Kind of Music by Mama Cass Elliott, which perfectly sums up a night celebrating the musical contributions of women.
There is something delightful about singling out music best known for being performed by women, and there's something special about hearing these songs sung by such a talented cast. Despite a few moments of mediocrity, this is a production that is just a fun, toe-tapping good time.
BEEHIVE The '60s Musical runs May 31 - June 18. Performances are Tuesdays through Sundays. Performance times vary week to week, check the TBTS website for exact dates and show times. Tickets are $49, $59, & $69. Tickets are available to purchase by phone (401) 782-8587, online at theatrebythesea.com, or in person at 364 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield, RI 02879.