Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
For anyone wanting to relive the sounds of the '60s, the musical revue Beehive is the perfect opportunity. Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park brings back one of its most popular shows ever for a return visit and it continues to entertain with a rapid-fire succession of Top 40 tunes by female performers from the decade.
Beehive last played the Playhouse in 1994 and was brought back much to the delight of the many Baby Boomers who spent their teen years listening to these songs, and who make up the vast majority of the theater's regular audience. There is a good mix of silliness, including some fun audience participation, as well as material reflecting some of the more serious issues of the period.
The revue, created by the late Larry Gallagher, presents songs made popular by the ladies of pop and rock. The numbers are presented chronologically, with the first half featuring such innocent and frivolous hits as "The Name Game", "My Boyfriend's Back", and "It's My Party", as well as tunes from the women who were part of the British invasion. Music reflecting the social consciousness of our world following the assassination of JFK, the growing civil rights movement, and the escalation in Vietnam dominates the latter portion of the show. The changes in the style and messages of songs during this period are effectively shown through dialogue interwoven into "The Beat Goes On".
Beehive, however, isn't just a straightforward presentation of the music of a generation. In most cases, the songs are performed by actresses portraying the artists that made them popular. Leslie Gore, The Supremes, Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Tina Turner, and Janis Joplin are just a few of the ladies who are represented in the musical.
The show boasts a very talented and hard-working cast of six young women. Laiona Michelle serves capably as narrator and performs admirably throughout. Joye Ross possesses a powerful singing voice and wows the audience as the fiery Tina Turner. The spunky Kirsten Wyatt, known to Cincinnati audiences from her days at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, displays wonderful comedic skills and produces many laughs in multiple roles including Brenda Lee and Connie Francis. Showing great stage presence and range in roles including Diana Ross and Annette Funicello is Ashanti Johnson. Heather Ayers is appropriately campy as Leslie Gore and sings attractively. The most convincing portrayal is of Janis Joplin by Rachel Stern. Ms. Stern accurately recreates the eccentric mannerisms and raw and emotional vocals of Joplin in some of the revue's final numbers. The entire cast maintains high energy throughout and dances and sings with confidence.
Beehive is directed and choreographed by Pamela Hunt. Ms. Hunt's staging plays to all three sides of the oddly shaped Thompson Shelterhouse Theatre, and is fun, lively, and fast-paced. Her choreography includes many of the dances from the decade and is spirited and festive. The six-piece band led by Scott Kasbaum handles the music well and obviously has a good time playing the show.
The simple, yet appropriate set by James Morgan consists of a number of cylindrical pedestals, as well as a flat stage area for the constant movement. These are painted with psychedelic colors and shapes and the design is reminiscent of the one for the Sonny & Cher Show. John Carver Sullivan's costumes are attractive and accurate for the period. The numerous wigs by Kelly Yurko add the finishing touch to the visual replication of the 1960s.
Playhouse in the Park's production of Beehive is a high-energy and fun musical journey back to a decade of drastic change, via the songs of the many talented women performers of the 1960s. The show continues through January 6, 2002 and tickets can be ordered by calling (513) 421-3888.