The socially tumultuous but musically wondrous 1960s takes center stage as the Dayton Playhouse presents an entertaining and warmly nostalgic production of the off-Broadway musical revue Beehive.
Created in the 1980s by the late Larry Gallagher, Beehive salutes various female pop artists of the decade from girl groups such as the Chiffons, the Shirelles, and the Supremes to distinctive legends such as Janis Joplin, Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. Adhering to the standard revue blueprint, the songs are the main attraction. There’s no need for a trite, shoe-horned storyline when a bevy of 30 fantastic hits from toe-tapping confections (It’s My Party, My Boyfriend’s Back, One Fine Day, You Can’t Hurry Love) to soulful anthems (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, Abraham, Martin and John) breezily fuel the show’s feel-good momentum.
Director Tina McPhearson (who memorably helmed the Playhouse’s Hairspray) and choreographer Annette Looper (playfully evoking the spirit of American Bandstand and Hullabaloo) seemingly work in tandem to bring lighthearted joy to this fast-moving, audience-friendly outing. McPhearson’s lively and compatible six-member cast, attractively costumed by McPhearson, Kathleen Carroll and Tim Grewe with fabulous wigs by Steve Burton, beautifully blend vocally while enjoying individual opportunities to bask in the spotlight. Tamar Fishbein (Wanda) winningly takes on the role of narrator, gleefully offering commentary on important fashion trends and the significance of certain songs to provide greater context. Playhouse newcomer Kailey Yeakley (Alison) absolutely charms in full debutante mode rendering a lovingly demure and strong version of Where the Boys Are. Madeline Hart (Pattie) also provides a fine Playhouse debut, notably shining with You Don’t Own Me and Son of a Preacher Man. Alicia Walton (Jasmine), a standout earlier this season as Sister Mary Robert in the Playhouse’s Sister Act, returns with a particularly spirited River Deep –Mountain High. Shanna Comacho (Laura) continues her impressive versatility this season with a gently poignant To Sir, With Love (a personal favorite that still sounds as earnest and impactful as the day it was written) and a fully committed, Woodstock-esque embodiment of Somebody to Love, Cry Baby and Me and Bobby McGee. The marvelously expressive Elana Elmore (Gina), trained in opera but skillfully navigating R&B in this instance, delivers a rousing Proud Mary and wonderfully lyric-driven renditions of Chain of Fools and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. She effortlessly interprets Chain of Fools and A Natural Woman with delicate nuances and unique vocal flourishes that make its dual assessments of love, complicated vs. satisfying, arise fresh and new.
The production is also bolstered by Chris “Red” Newman’s variety show-inspired scenic design, John Falkenbach’s expert lighting, Bob Kovach’s terrific sound design, and conductor Ron Kindell’s well-balanced orchestra. Accented by amusing photos and commercials of yesteryear, Beehive is a worthwhile trip down memory lane.
Beehive continues through Sunday, Feb. 4 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The musical is performed in 90 minutes without intermission. Tickets are $16-$18. For tickets or more information, call (937) 424-8477 or visit www.daytonplayhouse.com.