Published in Gay and Lesbian Times February 28, 2003
Forget ‘Where the Boys Are”…. “Beehive” is where the GIRLS are. With its focus on ’60s girl groups, you could call this the female “Forever Plaid.” But though those ultra-tight harmonies may have thrilled you, the songs didn’t break off a piece of your heart (to quote a Pearl of wisdom). And that frankly geeky show, while perennial and amusing, was dependent on the appeal of, well, plaid. “Beehive” doesn’t just have harmony — it has hair! — the titular, teased, tower of AquaNet spray, not to mention the flips, Cher-dos and wild abandon of the anti-war anti-style.
As anyone who lived through the ’60s knows, the seminal events of the era were marked by music. We females went from whiners to young women, from preteens to protesters. After the assassinations and the British invasion, we all lost our innocence — one way or another. Okay, maybe “Beehive” isn’t making any political points or philosophical statements. But in taking us back to those times, it recalls a million memories — not only of living through the events, but exactly what we were doing when we first heard those songs — from “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” to “Woodstock,” “Destiny’s Child” to “Respect.” And, as we are repeatedly reminded, the beat goes on.
The high-energy piece requires megawatt talent. Not only do these musical wonders have to sing like the Shirelles, the Shangri-Las and the Supremes, they have to morph into Connie Francis, Brenda Lee, Leslie Gore and all those stellar one-namers: Tina, Janis, Joni, Cher and Aretha.
The cast that opened the show last year featured three knockout performers from the original, long-running “Beehive” production that inaugurated the Theatre in Old Town in 1992… and fortunately for us, they’re still here: Laura Lamun, the tiny spitfire with the tremendous voice; Lisa Payton-Davis (at her best as a terrific Tina Turner) and Colleen Sudduth (a super Joni Mitchell). Still there — since last year’s opening — are the amazing jazz-singer Renae Mitchell, who brings down the house as Aretha. And Emily Mitchell (no relation), who started in the show before she even finished her MFA in Musical Theatre at San Diego State, is a knockout, with the grace, talent, chops and charisma of a theatrical triple-threat. The newest addition (taking on all the roles originated by gifted local performer Joy Yandell — including the ever-wailin’ Janis Joplin) is Jenn Grinels, who hails from Northern California and can also be heard singin’ the blues at the Blarney Stone Pub (every other Monday night).
Director Paula Kalustian and costumer/choreographer Jill Mesaros put them through their paces — singin’, boppin’, rockin’, moanin’, sporting the hugest wigs this side of Vegas, dressed in the most outrageous and colorful getups.
There’s no story in “Beehive,” just a walk down a musical memory lane, with a jukebox background and a boffo backup band. Mindless fun, but a guaranteed good time — especially for us much-maligned Boomers! But the evening is a hoot for any age — the younger and older set, too! You might even get into the act singing ‘The Name Game’ (remember ‘bonana-fanna-fo-fanna?’) or dancing in the aisles. The performances are killer — and the audience participation is blessedly brief.
All in all, it’s a great big musical tease…. New York may have “Hairspray,” but we’ve got the “Beehive.”
“Beehive” continues in the second year of its open-ended run at the Theatre in Old Town; 619-688-2494.
©2003 Patté Productions Inc.