‘Beehive’ at Great Lakes Theater all honey and no sting
By Bob Abelman
It is unlikely that Great Lakes Theater thought to counterprogram what is currently being offered across the street at Playhouse Square, but its production of “Beehive: The 60s Musical” could not be more different than the touring “Aladdin.”
While “Aladdin” is a larger-than-life, deep-pocketed musical conceived by the collective brain trust of the Disney Theatrical Productions juggernaut, “Beehive” is an intimate, low-budget, no-frills jukebox musical created by a guy named Larry Gallagher, a booking agent with a momentary epiphany.
Actually, the show is more of a musical revue than a jukebox musical, since the songs neither tell a story nor is there a discernable story being told between them as connective tissue.
Essentially, six female performers in full frontal flirtation mode and cheer face sing popular ’60s songs by female performers the likes of Tina, Aretha and Janis, and renowned girl groups that include The Chiffons, The Shirelles and The Supremes.
They do so while performing Gregory Daniels’ choreography that cleverly incorporates the dance crazes – the Swim, the Mashed Potato, the Twist, the Frug, the Pony – and highly synchronized backup group movement of the era, while wearing colorful period dresses designed by Esther M. Haberlen.
Although ’60s issues like civil rights and woman’s rights are addressed, they are delivered with postage due through token songs like “Abraham, Martin and John” and “You Don’t Own Me,” respectively.
All this is performed on a stage with only six light columns to call scenic design, which change hues in accordance with the mood of the song being performed.
In addition to the nostalgia generated by the music for those cognizant in the 1960s, this show offers little except for the exceptional performers handpicked among Baldwin Wallace University’s students and alum by the school’s director of music theatre and this production’s director, Victoria Bussert.
Christiana Perrault, Annalise Griswold, Hannah-Jo Weisberg, Shelby Griswold, Camille Robinson and Adrianna Cleveland are no Tina, Aretha or Janis – whose songs make up most of the show’s less engaging second act – but they brilliantly cover everyone else, are immensely charming and move beautifully. They are backed by a wonderful six-piece band under Matthew Webb’s direction and keyboard.
Bussert pulls all this together nicely into a tight 100-minute production.
The one thing this production does share with the Broadway tour down the road is that neither engages the mind nor inspires the soul. But that is not the point of productions like these. Sit back, sing along, and enjoy the performances.
“Beehive: The 60s Musical” at Great Lakes Theater
WHERE: The Hanna Theatre, 14th St. and Euclid Ave., Cleveland
WHEN: Through May 20
TICKETS & INFO: $15 – $80, call 216-241-6000 or visit to greatlakestheater.org
Bob Abelman covers professional theater and cultural arts for the Cleveland Jewish News. Follow Bob at Facebook.com/BobAbelman3. 2017 AP Ohio Media Editors best columnist.
Originally published in the Cleveland Jewish News on May 6, 2018.
Lead image: Christiana Perrault, from left, Annalise Griswold, Hannah-Jo Weisberg, Shelby Griswold, Camille Robinson and Adrianna Cleveland. Photo / Roger Mastroianni