STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
During intermission of the Durango Arts Center’s production of “Beehive: The ’60s Musical,” more than one theatergoer announced “I had no idea I knew the words to these songs!” From The Chiffons to Janis Joplin, “Beehive” is a testament to the enduring nature of 1960s Top 40.
Entering its last month on the Durango stage, “Beehive” continues to energize audiences with spectacular, and often nearly identical, renditions of familiar songs. Who knew Durango had voices such as Aretha Franklin and Carole King? Who knew anyone had the guts to try?
The cast is a powerful, strong, six-woman ensemble; Traci Lyn Thomas (a director for the Durango Performing Arts Company), Rachel Saul Pollack and Erika Beardsley’s stunning voices are well-suited to the material. Dannie Lyn Parker and Jessica Jane Hagemeister may be 40 years shy of ever doing the twist in the school gym, but they have certainly caught on – even dragging audience members on stage to join.
A plot is essentially nonexistent. Rather, “Beehive” is a series of 39 songs strung together by a loose narrative spanning the decade. Jeannie Wheeldon, former owner of Diamond Circle Melodrama, acts as narrator, a woman recalling her, and America’s, coming of age in the 1960s.
“Beehive” doesn’t so much forget about Elvis or the British Invasion as it lets the boys take the backseat for a while. This is about the women’s groups so often overshadowed when looking at that musical era. “Beehive” revives some forgotten tracks such as Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” Janis Joplin’s “Ball and Chain” and Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child” as well as bringing back old favorites such as The Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back,” Tina Turner’s rendition of “Proud Mary” and Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”
A fast and confident production, “Beehive” is nearly seamless under the direction of Theresa A. Carson. From towering hairdos to blinding psychedelic neon, the cast has more costume changes than a Cher concert.
After two months on stage, it looks like the cast is still having fun. Of all the impressive covers, Thomas and Pollack’s duet of “Do Right Woman” is truly stunning – well worth the ticket in itself.
Without a doubt, “Beehive” is geared for older audiences – i.e. those who actually remember the ’60s – but is such a fun production that it will entertain all audiences. Created in 1986 by New York booking-agent Larry Gallagher, “Beehive” is essentially 90 minutes of nostalgia.
As most material based on the 1960s, “Beehive” is oversimplified and sentimentalized, touching delicately upon the civil rights and women’s movement, Kennedy’s assassination and Vietnam. It’s like looking back on the golden, good ol’ days. And if any generation earned that right, they did.
Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango. Reach her at email@example.com.