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St. Louis by Robert Boyd

Beehive The 60's Musical
Repertory Theater of St. Louis

The concept of Beehive is to celebrate the wild and crazy decade of the 1960s from the perspective of music mostly made by women, from the giggly frothy girl-groups right up to the anguished Janis Joplin. The psychedelic set, a confection of orange and pink that—as Steve Woolf said in his opening night remarks—might have come from a '60s television game show, sets the tone before the music even starts.

The music starts with a collage of hit songs performed by the six-piece backup band, featuring some of St. Louis's strongest musicians working under Musical Director and keyboard player Michael Sebastian. These six guys are the heart of the show, and they deserve great applause.

The cast consists of six women, all quite a bit older than the singers whose work they recreate; the evening is laid out as a trip through memories for them as well as for the audience, which gets involved in the proceedings early and often. The age difference is very noticeable in the choreography and costumes of the parts of the evening which focus on teenyboppers. By the time the score gets round to Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin and Miss Joplin, though, the pure vibrant energy—and impressive voices—of these women make us forget about the differences.

There are a couple of pieces in the list of songs that seem to have been either created or shaped to fit the needs of this revue, but most of the tunes are right out of the jukebox, and they cover at least the pop and Motown sections of the spectrum thoroughly. There may be a couple that aren't instantly familiar, but most have both the men and the women in the audience either mouthing the words or at least bobbing their heads in appreciation.

So, there is music that, for baby-boomers at least, is instantly recognizable and nostalgic, performed by a talented cast and a great band; what's not to like? A cynic might suggest that the very tentative narrative—a kind of free-form memoir of the decade by cast member Lisa Estridge—should either be omitted or developed further. And lovers of some of the groups portrayed, especially the Supremes, are likely to be less than impressed with the precision of Director Pamela Hunt's choreography.

And then there is the big question for all of us who lived through the '60s and this music and the crushes and the dances and so on: it's fun to bathe in nostalgia, but were we really that silly? Ah well, at least watching the amazing Lauren Dragon bringing Janis Joplin back to thrashing life or the equally impressive Debra Walton channeling Tina Turner, flinging her body and her hair around the stage with boundless energy, we can recapture something of the ferocity of with which we loved the music they made.

Beehive The 60's Musical will run through April 10 on the Browning Mainstage at the Repertory Theater of St. Louis. Call 314-968-4925 for ticket information, or visit www.repstl.org.


-- Robert Boyd

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