These ladies tease to please.
But no garments are removed in “Beehive: The 60’s Musical,” the retro hits-driven revue that opened at Jubilee Theatre on Friday. The title refers to the heavily teased up-do that was all the rage when the show’s songs were topping the charts.
This season-closing production, directed by Jubilee artistic director Bill Ray, has about as much weight as one of its airy, title-inspiring dos. Vietnam and civil rights receive only passing mentions, for example. But it glows with so much energy and joie de vivre that it makes you feel you are in the middle of an especially tuneful love-in.
The structure of the show is simple and unadorned: one number follows another, with just a few words of context or explanation used as setup. There is so little text that the credits read “created by” Larry Gallagher rather than “written by.”
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The numerous songs offered by the all-female cast of six are a soundtrack for baby boomer heaven. We get classics by the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Petula Clark, Lesley Gore, Tina Turner and even Janis Ian, among many more. And most of them are very nicely showcased.
The show follows a fairly chronological arc. In the first act, the cast is frequently broken into trios by race. There are the three white girls (Jenna Meador, Devin Berg and Mattie Lillian Davis, all of whom are past or future products of TCU’s theater program), and the three black girls (Kyndal Robertson, Ayanna Edwards and Nikka Morton). In the second act, the performances are more integrated, reflecting the barriers that began to fall in music and society across the span of that turbulent decade.
All of the women are featured in both lead and supporting roles, and most of their efforts are first rate. The only general flaw was that some of the singers seem reluctant to really let go and live in their numbers. “Will You Still Love Tomorrow,” for example, gets a tepid, plaintive reading instead of tapping the inherent fear and urgency of the lyrics that so many singers exploit in that chestnut.
But when the singers do get fully comfortable between the staves, the results are often impressive. Robertson’s channeling of a shimmering, shimmying Tina Turner for “River Deep — Mountain High” and “Proud Mary,” are among the highlights underscoring that point.
The entire cast sings and dances well, and Morton also does a nice job of serving as a sort of emcee for the show. But Meador might take the award for best all-around player because she did the outstanding choreography for the show, and seems to understand more about selling a song than her cast mates. Unfortunately, however, she gives a little too large a piece of her heart to her Janis Joplin segment. It is the only part of the show that does not work.
Among the other standout moments are Berg’s funny take on “It’s My Party,” Davis’ nicely rendered “Society’s Child” and Edwards’ work in the show-stopping Aretha Franklin segment.
In addition to noteworthy vocals, the show also offers some dazzling, spot-on period costumes by Barbara O’Donoghue, and a seemingly infinite number of wigs of every type. This show clearly understands that hairstyles changed as rapidly as everything else in the 1960s.
The set by Bryan Wofford recalls the old comedy show “Laugh-In” in its look, but it is stagnant and minimal to a fault. Some movable panels, or anything to change to the singers’ backdrop, might have made the show more visually interesting.
All of the songs are well supported by an off-stage ensemble led by Aimee Bozarth on keyboards. Among the other players, Kim Platko provides some tasty guitar work, and Pete Brewer’s sax adds a lot of texture.
So you may not be any smarter after you see this breezy, free-flowing revue. But it will give you a chance to get back in touch with your inner hippie, and make you see visions of peace and love dancing in your head.
Beehive: The Musical
Through Aug. 27
8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays