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Raleigh Little Theatre’s Outdoor Production of Beehive Is a Feast for the Ear and the Eye

The cast for Raleigh Little Theatre‘s production of Beehive includes (from left) Rose Higgins, Kimberly Genna Bryant, Angelica Bridges, Natalie Turgeon, Jessica Landwehr, and Natasha Gore (photo by Elizabeth Newton)

As if it could get any hotter, Raleigh Little Theatre heats up the night with Beehive: The 60’s Musical. Six amazing ladies brought the global warming to the Louise “Scottie” Stephenson Amphitheatre on the opening-night performance on Thursday, Aug. 12th.

The show, created by Larry Gallagher, is a musical revue of songs from the 1960’s made popular by girl groups, such as The Chiffons and The Shirelles, and iconic female voices, such as Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, and Janis Joplin.

Beehive’s more of a musical revue than a musical, meaning mostly songs, a little banter, and no real story or character development like you’d find in the book of a regular musical. But Beehive is more than just “regular.” It’s a real celebration of the collective female musical voice, changing with society and filled with individuality.

The first song is a compilation called “Round the Beehive/Let’s Rock.” Sung from offstage at first, the audience gets to enjoy hearing the tight vocal blend of this talented cast, even before we see their faces. Once onstage, they encourage the audience to join in on singing Shirley Ellis’ “The Name Game,” and use the game as a way to introduce themselves.

The early numbers reflect the innocence and happiness of the early 1960s, leaving you wanting more when Natasha Gore delivers “Where Did Our Love Go,” followed by Angelica Bridges with “Come See About Me.” Another especially good number was an awesome arrangement of “One Fine Day,” showcasing some great vocal harmony.

Kimberly Genna Bryant takes on a Connie Francis classic with her sweet rendition of “Where the Boys Are.” RLT audiences may remember Bryant in the hilarious role of Sister Mary Patrick in 2018’s Sister Act.

Later on, they pop the bubble gum and dive into some terrific tributes to iconic rock voices of the late 1960s. “Abraham, Martin and John” is the 1968 song that laments the assassinations of national leaders who seek to do good. It asks the question “Anybody here, seen my old friend …?” Natalie Turgeon and Angelica Bridges deliver this song as a duet. The simplicity of the staging makes the song very powerful.

Quickly following are songs highlighting the changes for women, which were many — and substantial, such as: “The Pill,” approved in 1960 for birth control, had taken hold and freed up women’s lives; “Women’s Lib” was stirring into the American lexicon; and in 1965, Helen Gurley Brown took over editorship of Cosmopolitan magazine, turning the previously male-led magazine into one extolling female sexuality and political empowerment.

Jessica Landwehr performs “You Don’t Own Me” as a strong feminist message. At the end of the song, she turns her back to the audience and exits the room with complete and total empowerment.

Angelica Bridges is featured in a tribute to Tina Turner, with an energetic “River Deep” and “Proud Mary.” Natasha Gore is dressed in a gorgeous all-white gown as she channels Aretha Franklin in “Chain of Fools,” “Never Loved a Man” and “Natural Woman.”

Finally, it is Rose Higgins, who brings it home as Janis Joplin, thrilling the audience with her big numbers, “Somebody to Love” and “Cry Baby.” The evening wraps up with “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” sung by the ensemble.

Director and choreographer Lormarev Jones keeps the fun quotient high, while at the same time honoring the important changes for women during the 1960s. Jones spoke to WHUP in an Aug. 4th interview: “So much of this music is music that was popularized by black female girl groups…. I wanted to do something that would fill my summer with joy and outside air…. Because of the nature of the show, because it is an all-woman cast, this is an opportunity to have an all-female production team.”

The show is a feast for the eyes, beginning with a nifty teal-and-pink diner by scenic designer Elizabeth Newton. Costume designer Jenny Mitchell and a costume crew of 25 have created an array of costumes that take us from the early 1960’s shirtwaist dresses to the late 1960’s flower-power attire.

Lighting designer Brett Stegall incorporates the use of follow spots, considered a bit “old-school” nowadays, but perfect for a show of this kind. The lighting design really comes to life in the later numbers, transforming the diner into a psychedelic nightclub for the Tina Turner and Janis Joplin sections.

Another feast for the eyes is the poster illustration by Wutang McDougal, art activist and Durham resident.

The show is also a feast for the ears. Pit musicians Keith Lewis (bass), Tim Wall (drums), Warren Sharp (guitar), Justin Berry (saxophone), Scott Parrish (saxophone), and Bobby Hinson (trumpet) are led by music director Mary Kathryn Walston on keyboard. This top-notch band provides a solid backdrop to the singers.

Even with a few opening-night technical problems with the microphones, the mix of vocals and band is generally very good. It’s difficult to set up and take down all the audio paraphernalia associated with an outside venue. Sound designer Todd Houseknecht and the sound crew do the hard work every night to make the show sound great.

Raleigh Little Theatre’s beautiful rose garden and amphitheater is an amazing place to spend a summer evening, but the seats, well — the seats are made of rock. So, bring a towel or pillow to sit on, or a folding chair. RLT allows the audience to bring food and non-alcoholic beverages. It’s summer in the South, so bug spray is also recommended.

Stage manager Christine Rapp calls a snappy show. Runtime is approximately 80 minutes, with no intermission. The show is appropriate for most ages and best recommended for ages 10+.

If you love girl groups and outdoor entertainment, there’s more to come. RLT will be showing the film Dreamgirls in the amphitheater at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 9th. And if you love The Shirelles, you and your kids will love the “Squirelles” in the musical Elephant & Piggie’s: “We Are in a Play!”, opening on Saturday, Oct. 23rd.

Wutang McDougal created the poster artwork for RLT‘s Aug. 12-28 production of Beehive, directed by Lormarev Jones

Larry Gallagher’s BEEHIVE: THE 60’S MUSICAL (In Person at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 13, 14, 19-21, and 26-28), directed by Lormarev Jones and starring Angelica Bridges, Kimberly Bryant, Natasha Gore, Rose Higgins, Jessica Landwehr, and Natalie Turgeon (Raleigh Little Theatre in its Louise “Scottie” Stephenson Amphitheatre in Raleigh). TICKETS: $27 ($23 students and seniors 62+). Click here to buy tickets. INFORMATION: 919-821-3111 or info@raleighlittletheatre.org. NOTE 1: Wutang McDougal created the poster’s artwork. NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug 21st, performance. PLEASE DONATE TO: Raleigh Little Theatre.

NOTE:

Nancy Rich is a local director/choreographer, with a love for the performing arts and a passion for supporting local artistic work. Nancy and her husband, Rod, own and operate Monkeybravo, a video production company. Nancy is one of the founders of Actors Comedy Lab and participates in local theater as a hired gun, a volunteer and, on very rare occasions, an actor. Nancy recently wrote a series of monologues called The PRINCESS Talks, performed at the 2017 Women’s Theatre Festival. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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