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A honey of a show

The term “jukebox musical” is usually used in contempt to describe a musical revue with no book and no character development—just a collection of popular songs plopped on the stage, sung by a small cast of actors backed up by a small band. Jukebox musicals are less expensive to put on than full-blown musicals (which often have larger casts and larger orchestras), and so they seem to exist for one reason only: to make money for the producing theater.

Technically Beehive is a jukebox musical. It consists of 90 minutes or so of familiar hit songs from the 60s, all of them originally recorded by female artists. And surely it has potential to make money for Marriott. (But is that a bad thing?)

What separates this show from the rest, though, is its quality—and the passion and soul exhibited by all involved. This is no mere empty-headed, moneymaking operation. And there is a degree of intelligent design in the structure of the show. The songs, gathered together by creator Larry Gallagher, are presented in a carefully considered chronological order and so, along with Amanda Vander Byl’s costumes and Miguel A. Armstrong’s wigs, provide a history of sorts of America during that complex, contradictory decade of change.

More importantly, everyone involved in director-choreographer Deidre Goodwin’s production—cast and band alike—deliver powerful, from-the-gut renditions of these standards (“It’s My Party,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Make Your Own Kind of Music”). The show features remarkable impersonations of the era’s rock stars: Miciah Lathan does a great Aretha Franklin, Leah Morrow a powerful Grace Slick, and Aisha Sougou and Grace Bobber slay as Tina Turner and Janis Joplin. All this, and a six-piece onstage rock band so good that two-thirds of the audience literally would not leave while they were playing the obligatory “exit the theater” music after the final bows.