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Those Gifted Girl Groups

For so many audience members, especially those who identify as “Baby Boomers” (like me), Marriott’s scintillating Summer show is a musical montage that promises to bring back a flood of fond memories. Do you remember “The Name Game” and “My Boyfriend’s Back”? If you grew up in the 1960’s, the Golden Age of those gifted musical Girl Groups, you most certainly do! This revue is the soundtrack of your lives, my friends. For younger audiences, this magical musical will offer a historical retrospective of an important decade. Featured in this one-act wonder are many of the catchy pop and rock & roll songs that we sang along with and set our feet dancin’ in the streets.

Theatergoers will relish this delicious banquet of delectable hits, peppered with songs made popular by artists like Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Lulu, Leslie Gore, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, Cass Elliot and many, many more. Created by Larry Gallagher, the show is a loving tribute to a far more innocent time. Hearing the music from this era will fill theatergoers of a certain age with nostalgia. The songs will instantly transport them back to their high school years, the day they discovered their first love, perhaps experienced a breakup or maybe even the moment when they struck out for individual independence. Guided with love and empathy and choreographed with moxie and authentic 60’s dance moves by Deidre Goodwin, the revue is everything. It features tight musical direction provided by the always reliable Ryan T. Nelson, and a talented, onstage all-female band, led by Celia Villacres on keyboard.

Marriott’s song-filled journey through this decade of change is told from the perspective of six very different young women, each of whom sizzles with talent. The gifted, charismatic and always remarkable Leah Morrow leads the cast. She serves as our trusted guide, providing narration and leading us through the historical highlights of the decade. We can identify with Leah as she provides her own personal memories of growing up at this time. Leah introduces the female performers and the songs of the era, for theatergoers who aren’t savvy to the 60’s. Ms. Morrow, of course, is an equally talented vocalist and dancer as well, especially showing off her skills as one of Tina Turner’s shimmying backup dancers. Leah Morrow really gets to show off her star power in this production.

Another Broadway calibre performance in this production is the always incomparable Lucy Godinez. This gifted young actress, who’s been enjoyed at the Marriott, Paramount and Writers Theatres, as well as in regional theatres all over the country, shines like a beacon. She has everything: the powerful pipes to blow every song out of the water, the dance moves to rock the Marriott Theatre stage and a sparkling and engaging personality. Ms. Godinez also has a dazzling smile that absolutely lights up the stage.

Grace Bobber is one more spectacular performer who impresses in this production, particularly with her spot-on performance as Janice Joplin. Ms. Bobber’s rich alto caresses the lyrics and melodies of so many songs, often beautifully providing the backup for several of the leading ladies. Miciah Lathan, a favorite gifted artist often enjoyed at Black Ensemble Theatre, makes her Marriott debut in this show. However, this remarkably talented young lady has appeared all over Chicagoland. At one point, Ms. Lathan becomes a convincing Aretha Franklin and brings down the the house, making the Queen of Soul’s most famous songs all her own. Aisha Sougou returns to the Marriott after appearing in their recent production of BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROL KING MUSICAL. One of this talented performer’s finest moments is her show-stopping portrayal of Tina Turner, shaking the night away with, among other songs, a rousing version of “Proud Mary.” And a recent graduate of CCPA at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, Emma Grace Bailey may be remembered for appearing in the Marriott’s production of THE MUSIC MAN. She brings her accomplished vocal and dance talents to this production in so many toe-tapping numbers of this show and shows audiences that here’s a new talent to watch.

Deidre Goodwin’s delectable production of “Beehive” offers an hour and twenty minutes of nonstop, musical and nostalgic bliss. Celebrating girl power and the musical contributions of women, and performed by a mega talented cast and band, the show features so many songs of the 60’s. They include such hits, among many others, as “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “One Fine Day,” “Chain of Fools,” “Be My Baby,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “It’s My Party,” “You Don’t Own Me,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “To Sir With Love,” “Make Your Own Kind of Music” and the heartbreaking “Abraham, Martin and John.” Each song evokes memory after memory and takes the audience on an true emotional journey, providing a real blast from the past. Kudos to Amanda Vander Byl for her multitude of beautiful period Costumes, enhanced by Miguel A. Armstrong’s perfect and sometimes outrageous Wig Design. Collette Pollard’s brightly colorful Scenic Design, with its circle of memory boxes hanging high above the stage, is lit with mood and magic by Jesse Klug. Everything totally bespeaks the 60’s.

After the 1950’s gave birth to rock and roll, the genre continued to evolve and reinvent itself over the years that followed. But what made rocking around the clock in the swinging 60’s even more exciting was the sudden rise of all those phenomenal female soloists and a bevy of gifted Girl Groups. Every artist in this revue gets to showcase her musical and choreographic talents, providing powerhouse vocals, close harmonies, spirited interpretations and bouncy beats in their performances. Each song will have theatergoers clapping their hands, tapping their feet, bopping their heads, singing along and dancing in their seats with glee.    

Highly Recommended