You're Killin' Me
Even as the fine band for Beehive: The 60s Musical Sensation warmed up the crowd with an "It's My Party" infused medley, deep in my gut the pain started. It was the same pain that accompanies all such musical reviews, and it sharpened with the play's first chipper hit-parade memory: "The Name Game."
If you recognize this bastard song, definitely best left in the 1960s, then you know it starts out painfully, "Shirley, Shirley bo Birley, Bonana fanna fo Firley, Fee fy mo Mirley, Shirley!"
Except, as I sat there in my Stage Door Theatre seat, the translation into my skull shotgunned, "Kill me, Kill me, bo Bill me, Bonana fanna fo Fill me, Fee fy mo Mill me, Kill me!"
Yes, if you hate musical reviews, then you'll be praying for sudden death.
But to err on the of fairness, it's clear that some people, for whatever reason, do love them. The rest of us do what we must to survive Beehive intact. In my case, it was through a schizophrenic Sybil-like dialogue between me and the tiny, sickly sweet node of my brain that's stubbornly inclined toward this stuff.
Me: OK, here we have a musical review of six big-haired women singing into their hairbrushes, hopping and shimmying, with great synchronicity, to girl band songs of the 1960s.
Sybil: Yes, isn't it glorious? Everyone from Petula Clark and Lesley Gore to Tina Turner and Janis Joplin, 37 songs in all.
Me: Who the hell is Lesley Gore? And wait, Janis Joplin in a saccharine musical review?
Sybil: Don't start with me.
Me: OK. But, isn't Beehive just a rip-off of Hairspray?
Sybil: Oh, no. Beehive has been around since 1985, a few years before John Waters' film, let alone the Broadway adaptation, so you can't label it as a copycat. And it still makes the rounds, obviously. Last year there was a much-appreciated production at Denver's Country Dinner Playhouse. I don't know what they served, but I just bet it was prime rib. Two years ago there was even a performance at the Kennedy Center. That's in our nation's capital, you know, Washington, DC.
Me: Do you think W. attended? And, for that matter, does he remember the 1960s?
Sybil: Of course, he remembers. He was a Yale scholar then.
Me: Yeow. Beehive is almost completely upbeat, with songs generically linked together by happy don't-you-remember reflections like, "Hey, we can't forget about the Shangri-Las!" Geez, didn't any of these people hear about the My Lai Massacre?
Sybil: Oh, who cares? Don't you love Stage Door Theatre's huge Laugh-In set of pastel cutouts trimmed with high-wattage light bulbs? And the voices. So pure. And the songs? "My Boyfriend's Back," "I Hear A Symphony," "Respect," and so many others. Wonderful.
Me: Actually, I was hoping for a drag queen version. That would've been cool. But, you're right. The voices are nice. However, I still can't get away from the annoying banter, with no storyline, yet with insipid asides about JFK's assassination and the Civil Rights movement. The girls put on their pouty faces to sing a mournful "And The Beat Goes On," but moments later they're back at it with an insanely upbeat "Downtown."
Sybil: Well, you've got me there.
Me: Is the audience so easily manipulated that they can switch so quickly to the next song's inspired emotions?
Sybil: Oh, lighten up already. The band is great, as is the direction and choreography. And, those voices.
Me: Well, three of the six really stood out: Shaleah, Jessie, and especially Chyrlyé, who's prominently featured in almost half the songs in the second act.
Sybil: I personally loved them all. But please go on.
Me: Shaleah and Chyrlyé are beautiful singers Shaleah with "Sweet-Talkin' Guy," and "Do Right Woman," and Chyrlyé with "I Can Never Go Home Again," "Proud Mary," and an amazing "You Don't Own Me."
Sybil: See? Now you're talking. And Jessie was lovely with "Society's Child," "Wishin' and Hopin'," and "To Sir With Love."
Me: Yet, even you have to admit there were points, like the "Beehive Dance" and other numbers specially written for the show, that forced spurts of bile to rise up into your throat.
Me: And in the end, it's an evil harbinger.
Sybil: What do you mean?
Me: Some bad day 30 years from now, a musical about the first decade of the 21st century will undoubtedly highlight all of the singles produced by American Idol winners. That's what I mean. Sure, there might be a few sad reflections thrown in about terrorism and war, but mostly it will be cheery, like, "Remember back in 2009 when we listened to iPods and still had the right to vote?" and then they'll sing a memorial duet to honor Clay Aiken and Celine Dion.
Sybil: We'll just have to see, won't we? Don't be so sour. Would you have liked Beehive more if they'd served prime rib, and maybe a baked potato?
Me: You bet.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.