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I am not in the habit of revealing my personal take on a show in the opening lines of a review, but holy mackerel! I just saw the best show! Theatre Raleigh’s Beehive: The '60s Musical is a spectacular return to the hippie era and one of the best shows I have seen this season. I have not left a show feeling as upbeat about the genre or life in general as I did last night. Beehive was a complete surprise and, I admit, when I realized what I was witnessing, it took me a while to adapt: like, about two seconds!
Beehive is not what its name implies, you see. When someone tells me I'm going to see a musical, I expect a story, you know: plotline, characters, sets. Beehive has only the bare essentials of these. See, this show is not so much a musical as it is a Revue, and you will note that in this case I use the term with a capital R. Believe me, it is deserved.
I should have been tipped off when I saw the song list in the program. Had I paid any attention to it, I would have noted there are 34 songs in this show! The program notes told me this was a 90-minute show; there is no room for plot and character in this arrangement. But hold on to your hats, this is where things start to get really good.
Beehive is introduced by the character of Wanda, played in this show by Yolanda Rabun. I remember Yolanda, having seen her in two other Theatre Raleigh shows (Smokey Joe's Café and Ain't Misbehavin'). I remember that small packages can deal a tremendous punch..., and Yolanda does. But that was only a part of what Theatre Raleigh had in store for us.
Beehive is a revue of the songs of my era, the '60s. Woodstock. The Summer of Love. If you want to tickle me turquoise, play me some '60s music. Next, this music is sung by a six-member cast that, singly and together, know how to deliver a song. Seriously. Every single one of these gals may claim the title of Diva and get absolutely no argument from me!
Beehivestarts way back at the start of the '60s: the Kennedy/Nixon debate; the whole new line of 1960s automobiles, and the revelation – one of which I had no idea - the practice, if one wished, to wear her hair in a beehive, of building it on the platform of a beer can! Who knew?
Wanda does the honors of introducing the cast at the start of the show. We have Jasmine (Destiny Diamond), Laura (Lydia D. Kinton), Alison (Dakota Mackey-McGee), Patty (Casey Wenger-Schulman), and Gina (Tyanna West).
These gals dove right in and began with a medley under the title "Let's Rock," just a quick glimpse of what they had in store. Then Wanda led us all in that song that gets stuck in your mind sometimes, and you can't get it out. You remember; "The Name Game." Bo-nanna-nanna-fo-fanna, right? Well, right is what we got! Backed by the quintet, Wanda delivers this song like gangbusters, high-stepping in some very high heels (it has always been a wonder to me how women dance in those things).
Obviously, I'm not going to be able to run down all 34 songs, as much as I might like to. So here are some, and only some, of the highlights of this show. First of all, director Tim Seib has chosen a dynamite cast for this show. These gals can do it all: solo performances, group numbers, five- to six-part harmonies, and do it all with aplomb and what seems to be the greatest of ease – which only underscores that these six must have worked their tails off to bring this show to the stage, honey!
The first act has a total of 19 songs, and the time just flew by! We heard a combination of songs we all knew by heart – the audience is invited to participate, and I heard more than a few joining in – plus a few I had never heard before: "Academy Award," "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," and a song called "Walking in the Rain," which was NOT the one I remember. The gals were first rate, each decked out in a Sixties style mini dress of the kind you might have seen on Laugh-In. You know the kind: a solid color, but with the wide white stripe down the middle, each wearing a different color. Some Act I highlights: "My Boyfriend's Back," a group number designed to send all the boys hiding; many Supremes hits like "Come See About Me," delivered supremely by Gina, or "You Can't Hurry Love," sultrily sung by Alison, and "Where Did Our Love Go?" in a heartbreaker by Jasmine. And some other standards like "Sweet Talkin' Guy" sung sweetly by Patty. In every case, the back-up vocals were right on target, just like we heard them over our transistor radios.
But the gals saved the best for last, 'cause if you liked the first act, it weren't nuthin' compared to the second! In Act II, the beehives disappeared and the go-go boots came out. These songs, all of which came out while I was in high school, were not to be missed as the ladies let down their hair and really cut loose. These were all my favorites: a beautiful and nicely-turned rendition of Dion's "Abraham, Martin, and John," sung by all in turns; the tell-it-like-it-is standard sung by Alison, "You Don't Own Me" (Yikes!); a get-out-on-the-floor-and-dance rendition of "Son of a Preacher Man" by Patty, with some spot-on backup vocals; and some Lordy-that-sounds-like-Aretha dynamics when Gina put her mind to "Chain of Fools," complete with full-throated back-up by Wanda and Jasmine. We even got to hear "Proud Mary" as it was done by Ike and Tina Turner, complete with that iconic introduction that goes with it: "We don't never do nuthin' nice and easy," and Wanda did it up superbly. But my favorite of the second set was a dual-song rendition of "Cry Baby," and "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" by Laura, that just plain blew me away.
The second set was over too soon, but not without still one more surprise. The program called for all the gals to join in a closer of "Make Your Own Kind of Music," but someone had a stroke of genius, and the last song was changed to an icon of the Sixties, Aretha's "Respect," as Wanda gathered up all her compatriots and they gave us a tremendous rouser of a closer.
If you were fortunate enough – read: old enough – to remember fondly all these songs, as I am, then you can't ask for a more splendid evening than Beehive. But even if you aren't, go see this show. You will see a concoction of six magnificent voices both singly and blended beautifully together, singing songs that might surprise you with their staying power. This '60s musical is the cat's meow, and Theatre Raleigh has given it a splendiferous staging. So what are you waiting for? GO, already. This show is going to sell out, so get your tickets now!
Beehive: The '60s Musical continues through Sunday, May 19. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.