The Ensemble (Grace Chermak, Gracie Kay Anderson, Erin Nicole Farsté, Kiko Laureano, Leslie Vincent, Emilee Hassanzadeh, and Allyson Tolbert) gets ready to go-go in the Old Log Theatre’s production of Beehives: The 60s Musical. Photo courtesy of the Old Log Theatre.
The purpose of a musical revue is generally to showcase two things: killer songs and kick-ass performers. Add costumes to the mix and you have the recipe for the Old Log Theatre’s new production of Beehive: The 60s Musical.
Unlike a jukebox musical, which usually (and often badly) tries to glue a story onto a song collection, you won’t find any narrative drama. Some spoken lines introduce songs and personages, covering costume changes and allowing the cast of seven women to catch their breath. After that it’s almost all singing and dancing, with an emphasis on knocking each individual song out of the park.
Beehive was originally developed for a nightclub/cabaret environment, an origin retained in much of the staging by director R. Kent Knutson and assistant director/choreographer Talya Dozois. There are all the trademark jumps between spots, changing between levels, and rattled off introductions. Each singer is featured in several songs, with varying backing ensembles and layers of harmony. The four-piece pit ensemble led by Natalie McComas is busy throughout, navigating all the styles that you might expect crammed into a decade of Brit-American music.
On opening night, it was clear that the recipe hit the spot, with a large portion of the audience cheering favorite songs and many solos. A particular hit was Gracie Kay Anderson as Janis Joplin, recreating the artist’s famous covers of “Cry Baby” and “Me and Bobby McGee” to loud acclaim. Another very resonant piece was “Goldfinger” (the title song from the James Bond film), with Allyson Tolbert capturing the essential aspects of Shirley Bassey’s song to many cheers.
With more than 30 songs to traverse and very little break, some practical expedients have been made in the choreography department. Selected pieces have more distinctive movement, but as an aggregate the choreography is most effective at showing the overall transformation of style over time; it does not recreate specific acts for each individual number. (This is probably a good thing – too faithful a recreation of so many powerhouse songs could cause serious pacing problems.)
This isn’t to say that the show functions as an extended cover band concert, slavishly recreating a specific song. Many of the performances mix a strong personal stamp with their grounding in the original recording artist performance. Exhibit A: Kiko Laureano’s powerhouse featured vocals in “Proud Mary” and Leslie Vincent’s haunting cover of Lulu’s “To Sir with Love“. Exhibit B: Grace Chermack’s arresting delivery of “Abraham, Martin, and John”, which recalls Moms Mabley’s performance more than Dion’s.
Beehive: The 60s Musical is probably not the show for you if you’re looking for a deep narrative – or any narrative, really. If you’re interested in seeing a talented set of vocalists immerse you in a blast from the past, it’s a pretty fun trip through the 1960s. Showing that sweet-talkin’ guy the door afterwards is optional.
Beehive: The 60s Musical is now playing in an open-ended run at the Old Log Theatre in Excelsior, MN.