Onstage: Beehive

I'm no expert on pop culture, but I was a teenager in the 1960s. So the 40 or so tunes by "girl groups" and women singers that constitute 'Beehive' are front and center in my mental jukebox. Watching the show at the Cincinnati Playhouse, I knew the words

I’m no expert on pop culture, but I was a teenager in the 1960s. So the 40 or so tunes by “girl groups” and women singers that constitute Beehive are front and center in my mental jukebox. Watching the show at the Cincinnati Playhouse, I knew the words to most of the songs. It feels good to stroll down memory lane, and Beehive’s visuals with dozens of wigs and evolving outfits (from pink chiffon to mini skirts to bell bottoms and fishnet stockings) were a reminder of how music and style intermingled.

But something kept bugging me: The six actresses were not playing singers from the ’60s, they were offering caricatures. Of course, the simple Pop tunes from the early part of the decade portray “love, loss and the pain of being a teenager,” as described in a program note by director Pam Hunt (who also staged Beehive for the Playhouse in 1993 and 2001). But these songs weren’t seen as funny by kids being overly dramatic — “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” conveyed real adolescent emotions and worries; “One Fine Day” was what we all hoped for.

The songs in Act I (from 1960-1965) are played for humor, including an extended scene framed by a weeping Lesley Gore (Jessica Waxman) singing “It’s My Party,” a stalwart Brenda Lee offering “I’m Sorry” (Kristin Maloney captures Lee’s vocal catches perfectly), a coy Annette Funicello (Jennie Harney, showing off her bullet bra) and a wistful Connie Francis (Maloney again). These songs were recorded seriously. Not that I wasn’t expecting profound drama, but this production treats everything as comedy.

Beehive continues at the Playhouse through May 22. Go here to read Rick Pender's full review.

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