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‘Beehive’ Offers a Musical Celebration of Women’s Liberation in the 1960s: Review

Let’s hear it for the girls, and for the 1960s — a decade of liberation and change, change, change, especially for American women. What’s more, given the current political chaos in this country, and throughout the world, there could be no better time to celebrate an era that unfolded years ago, and can now sometimes seem as if it is being undermined.

To feel the complex mix of dramatic events and formidable social change of those years — and best of all to be reminded of the pop music brilliance of that time — I urge you to head straight to the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire now. That is where a clearly gifted female director/choreographer, along with six terrifically multi-talented actresses and six outstanding female musicians, are bringing “Beehive: The ‘60s Musical” to vivid life.

The show, which features more than 30 hit songs of the era that were the work of a slew of different composers and lyricists, was created and first directed by Larry Gallagher in 1986. (He died two years later, at the age of just 41.) From time to time, the show is briefly punctuated by the mention of historical events that range from the assassinations of both President John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to the war in Vietnam, to the notorious rock festival in Woodstock in August 1969, to the fashion revolution that featured miniskirts.

The six exceptionally gifted women in the show — Emma Grace Bailey (also the dance captain), Grace Bobber, Lucy Godinez, Miciah Lathan, Leah Morrow and Aisha Sougou — are full of personality. And they ideally showcase their powerhouse voices and attitude as they alternately sing together and perform knockout solos.

The impeccable orchestra, dubbed The Beehive Band, encircles the stage, and it includes Celia Villacres (conductor and keyboardist), Karli Bunn (tenor saxophone), Kellin Hanas (lead trumpet), Stephanie Chow (guitar), Lauren Pierce (electric bass) and Camila Mennitte (drums).

Director/choreographer Deidre Goodwin, who moves things along seamlessly throughout the 90-minute show, also succinctly captures the essence of the era it celebrates, summing it up in her program note: “The 1960s was a decade known as one of, if not THE decade, that experienced the biggest shifts in music, fashion, culture, and social evolution and revolution.”

Goodwin also notes that “Beehive” is “a love letter to the music of the 1960s.” And indeed it is, with more than 30 songs by both men and women ranging from Carole King, Gerry Goffin and Gerald Wexler “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman”; to Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector (“Be My Baby”); to John Madara and David White (“You Don’t Own Me”); to Don Black and Mark London (“To Sir With Love”); to Claudia Brevis (“Beehive Dance”).

Collette Pollard’s in-the-round set design (lit by Jesse Klug) is ideal, with a circular frame high above the stage featuring many small windows into girls’ bedrooms of the 1960s, with a small radio perched on every night table.

This is a production that should move to a downtown Chicago theater fit for a similar configuration. And it might even make it back to New York where it had an off-Broadway run in the 1980s but never made it to Broadway. Now is the time.

Note: Coming up next at the Marriott will be “1776” (Aug. 21-Oct. 13), another ideal choice of a musical to be staged shortly before the Nov. 5 presidential election.