Review: Beehive: The 60s Musical

Cast of Beehive: The 60s Musical                                                                      Photo byAlexis Small

By Larry Laneer
April 17, 2019

The title Beehive: The 60s Musical doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in some theatergoers. What is it? Hairspray as a jukebox musical? No, this musical revue has more substance than you might think. The 1960s began with the bulbous beehive hair-do and ended with girls ironing their tresses. And the decade’s music evolved to about the same extent.

Larry Gallagher, who died in 1988, selected the songs and wrote continuity dialog linking them  in this tribute to girl groups and female vocalists of the eponymous decade. The script abounds with historical and pop cultural references familiar to anyone alive at the time. Pollard Theatre Company is putting on the show under Timothy Stewart’s direction. The production takes a long time to get on its feet, but once it does, some of the performances stick with you for a while. I didn’t see Pollard’s 2008 staging of this show, so I have no basis for comparison.

The cast consists of Susan Riley, Mariah Warren, Stef Fortney, Jennifer Teel, De’Vin Lewis, and Megan Montgomery, all highly accomplished singers and actors familiar to regular theatergoers. After an introductory number, they start with “The Name Game” and work their way through to “Me and Bobby McGee” in about two hours, encountering the British musical invasion, war, and Woodstock along the way. Much of the singing comes off as in the style of the original artists, rather studied imitations, with notable exceptions, such as Warren’s Tina Turner. Teel’s wired Janis Joplin is a highlight of the show. Riley does a fine job as narrator and guiding light.  The always reliable Louise Goldberg leads a sharp four-piece, onstage band.

The early part of the decade was really the petering out of the 1950s. Songs covered various aspects of teen love from puppy to unrequited. Then, the British invasion happened, which included far more than The Beatles and Herman’s Hermits. Petula Clark (“Downtown”), Lulu (“To Sir with Love”), and Dusty Springfield (“Son of a Preacher Man“) had hit songs on the charts.

The best part of the show comes in the first act when Warren, Riley, and Lewis sing the much-recorded “Abraham, Martin and John” in haunting three-part harmony.

Michael James’s costumes also run the 1960s gamut. Some of them look luxurious by the end of the show. Lulu’s Mondrian-inspired dress and Janis Joplin’s hippie-chic are spot-on. Hannah Finnegan’s wigs play a big part in the show. Teel’s Joplin carries a liquor bottle on stage at one point, but it’s hard to tell if it’s Southern Comfort, the singer’s favorite libation (Stewart is also responsible for props).

James A. Hughes adorned his static, multilevel scenic design with pastel-colored hexagons appropriate for the set of any pop-music television show of the decade, such as Shindig, referenced in the show.

At the end, Riley gives a speech about how the 1960s were an important time for women’s empowerment. The Me Too movement gives the show some relevance today. Ironically, many of the men exposed by the movement are big shots in the music and entertainment industries.

Beehive: The 60s Musical created by Larry Gallagher
Pollard Theatre Company
8:00 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, through May 4
2:00 p.m. Sunday, April 21 and 28, 8:00 p.m. Thursday, April 25, and May 2
Pollard Theatre
120 W. Harrison Ave., Guthrie
$30
405-282-2800