Beehive: The ’60s Musical | 03.16.11

Sometimes you’ve got to make your own kind of music, even if nobody else sings along. 

 

 
St. Louis Repertory Theatre
Immediately greeted with the bright colors and massive stage design, the scene is set somewhere “between the Newlywed Game and the Dating Game” says artistic director Steven Woolf as he welcomes us to the show. Just as he wraps up his details about the 2011-2012 season, the live band—consisting of drums, trumpet, saxophone, bass, guitar, and piano—plays a nice bluesy, jazz number.
I feel compelled to put on my bellbottoms and platforms, saying “heyyyy” as I’m grooving to the music. Lights hit the set and everything is illuminated as six ladies in assorted color monogram sweaters, white button-down shirts, khakis, and oxfords dance across the stage.
With the title show track, “Beehive,” we’re defining what a beehive could be. In this case, it could be a “box of shelter for bees, or a hairstyle of the ’60s.” I am filled with excitement as we begin this journey down memory lane to a place I’ve only read about and never actually witnessed; I definitely feel like I’m at a concert, and the harmonies gracing my ears are amazing.
“The Name Game” introduces us to the cast: Jennie Harney in purple, Jessica Waxman in green, Lauren Dragon in blue, Debra Walton in yellow, Kristin Maloney in pink, and Lisa Estridge in orange. Audience participation is a must as we begin this good time.
Not only was the show laced with good singing, it is also intertwined with historical facts, beginning in the 1960s when John F. Kennedy was elected president, the twist was introduced, and the Olympics were in Rome. Lisa, the narrator, talks about her childhood and how she remembers girl groups like The Angels and The Chiffons, and solo singers Brenda Lee, Lesley Gore, and Connie Francis.
Through  each performance we remember what female artists bring to the stage: empowerment and persuasive singing. Even though their male counterparts such as Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, and the Beatles had sung about love and freedom, the ladies gave a different perspective and established a female identity.
I understand completely why girl groups of this period are still looked to for guidance for today’s female artists. Groups from back then had such a commanding presence, and not strictly because they were attractive but because of their wardrobe and talent. Unlike the ’60s girl groups, the cast lacked a commitment to the performance. While not horrible, there could have been just a little bit more of something and the performance would have been more solid, more engaging, but it was just average. After a while, I found myself wondering, “Oh, gosh, can we get to the next song already?”
The dance break including all of the ‘60s crazes and audience members added some excitement to the somewhat dull performances, with the exception of Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” and The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go?” and “Come See About Me.” The twist, the jerk, the monkey, and the swim were among the dances that made many audience members return to that time in their life.
Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On” ushers in more historical facts dealing with the dark times of the decade: Kennedy’s assassination, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. The Age of Innocence had past, but this new era brought in British groups, as “drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain” and the first act concludes.
The queen of rock ’n’ roll, Tina Turner, kicked off the second act of the show, signifying a change in the female identity, one of independence and individuality. Though this performance was electrifying to me, looking around the theater not many were looking on in excitement: no hands clapping or heads bobbing or eyes jumping.
America was going through some changes, especially in the area of women with the women’s movement as well as the change in music. Music included much more soul and touched on the subjects of political and social issues. 
As the Aretha Franklin numbers are performed, I come to the conclusion that soul music isn’t for Broadway and cannot be sung if the person doesn’t have the voice; it doesn’t sound very musical at all, but rather somewhat mediocre.
As we enter Woodstock, Janis Joplin livened us up with “Take Another Little Piece of my Heart,” “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder),” and “Me and Bobby McGhee.” The final number “Make Your Own Music” in which the cast reunites and sings together rightly concludes this show that deals with so many periods of American change, illustrating that sometimes you’ve got to “make your own kind of music, even if nobody else sings along.”
By the end of this era, women had been given the American dream. They had modified it, defined and grown up with it in order to ensure the inclusion for generations of women to come. Beehive is a good visual of what used to be and how it is has impacted all of us. | Ashley White
Beehive runs through April 10. For more information on the production or the St. Louis Repertory Theatre, visit the Rep’s website. To purchase tickets, go online or call 314-968-4925.

 

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