Review by Doug Iden
An explosion of 1960’s music, all originally sung by female performers, greet the audience at The Covedale Theater for the opening of Beehive, The 60’s Musical. In a virtual Beehive of activity, this review follows six women gathering for their 1969 high school reunion.
The two acts are quite different. In Act 1, we hear the six characters played by Tia Seay, Molly Sexton, Ashton Francis, Kaitlin McCulloch, Cassidy Steele and Tina DeAlderete, recount their dating exploits starting in the early 1960’s, partly through dialogue but mostly through 17 songs originally sung by single performers or various women’s groups. Dressed in typical 1960’s dress, designed by Joe Kovacs, the performers sing individually or as part of a group, with each actress featured per song. The characters are named but do not have individual personalities as the first act plays out as a classic Broadway review.
Highlights of the first act include the songs “It’s My Party”, “Walking in the Rain”, “I’ll Never Change Him”, My Boyfriend’s Back”, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”, “One Fine Day”, “Baby, I Love You” and “The Beehive Dance” complete with “beehive” wigs. One good sight gag shows Cassidy Steele, the most petite of the actresses, wearing gigantic shoulder pads which, at the end of the song, are punctured with a needle. Another good sight gag occurred when one of the performers went off stage, grabbed a male dummy and started dancing. There was a note on the dummy’s back which identified him as Covid acceptable.
The emphasis changes in the second act from a litany of roller coaster relationships with men by the female alumni to a more serious examination of historical events of the 1960’s including increasing freedoms for women and a closer depiction of actual singers. In a more somber tone, the narrator, DeAlderete, recounts the assassination of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King as four members of the ensemble sing “Abraham, Martin and John”. The increased emotional and sexual freedom for women during that time is reflected in the songs “You Don’t Own Me” and “Son of a Preacher Man”.
Then, the story switches to homages to three major women singers during the era. Tia Seay does a tour-de-force representation of, first, Tina Turner with songs including “River Deep” and “Proud Mary”. She doesn’t try to imitate the singer but certainly sings in Tina’s style and captures the energy and charisma of the performer. Seay follows up with medley of Aretha Franklin songs including “Chain of Fools”, “Never Loved a Man” and “Natural Woman”. Through a combination of costume, hairstyle and singing style, Aretha emerges on the Covedale stage.
The narrator then directs the audience to Woodstock with Ashton Francis, complete with a raggedy, psychedelic outfit and drug induced stupor, portrays Janis Joplin with “Somebody to Love”, “Cry Baby”, “Just a Little Bit Harder” and “Me and Bobby McGee”.
Cincinnati audiences are normally very demur and polite and rarely participate in the show, even when encouraged by the actors. However, when Seay motioned people to clap during her Tina Turner routine, the audience responded enthusiastically and continued throughout the show.
One uncredited male actor (who looked like Director Jay Goodlett) added some levity to the show with repeated cameos depicting a doofus man overwhelmed by the powerful women. Goodlett and his wife Jenny were co-choreographers displaying the dancing talents of the cast with representative moves of Motown acts. They also spoofed several dance fads like the Twist, Wave, etc. by trying to teach Goodlett how to do the routines. The irony, of course, is that Goodlett and his wife are both CCM graduates in dance and have performed around the world.
The set design by Brett Bowling is static with few props but represents the period with a Tunnel of Love, a photo booth and a performing stage.
Overall, the show is fun, energetic and entertaining. If you enjoy 1960’s music, this will be a treat. However, the show suffered from a few opening night hiccups, especially with the sound, and the performances of the actresses were enthusiastic but somewhat uneven.So, grab your mini-skirts and rollerblade down to the Covedale Theater as you pretend to be one of the 20 million people who claimed to have actually been at Woodstock. Next up is On the Town with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Comden and Green. CLP also announced its summer program at the Incline and the following season at the Covedale. Tickets can be purchased HERE or call 513-241-6550 – Monday – Friday, 11am – 5pm.
Doug Iden is an avid, lifelong theater fan with an extensive collection of original cast albums. Â He also teaches classes on musical theater at OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute).