By Lauren Van Hemert
Fans of American Bandstand will revel in the nostalgia of it, while baby boomers may be more reflective on the counterculture of the time. Either way, the Theatre Raleigh production of Beehive: The 60’s Musical is an entertaining retrospective of the women, the music, and the movements that defined a generation.
Director Tim Seib is no stranger to Theatre Raleigh or this genre for that matter, having directed the Theatre Raleigh production and the current national tour of Million Dollar Quartet. This production, however, lacks some of the focus, polish, and finesse of last season’s irreproachable production of Once, which Seib also directed. And unlike Million Dollar Quartet, this production only alludes to the iconic singers and girl groups of the 60s through the eyes of six fictitious female characters, none of whom are all that distinctive or interesting until the second act when their rock goddess personas are clearly identifiable.
Each woman takes her turn in the spotlight. Tyanna West has her Aretha moment and sings an emphatic rendition of Chain of Fools. Lydia D. Kinton, last seen in Theatre Raleigh’s The Rocky Horror Show, trades in her Go-Go boots for bell-bottoms and belts out a hearty rendition of Janis Joplin’s Cry Baby, followed by Try (Just a Little Bit Harder). And Casey Wenger-Schulman and Dakota Mackey-McGee perform soulful renditions of Son of a Preacher Man and You Don’t Own Me respectively. Mackey-McGee also closes the show with a strong, straightforward arrangement of Me and Bobby McGee.
But it is Destiny Diamond and Yolanda Rabun who are the most consistent throughout. Diamond flaunts her versatile vocals and sells the pop numbers of Act I, like One Fine Day, and the soul-stirring numbers of Act II, like Natural Woman, with equal resolve. And Rabun’s electrifying performance of Proud Mary is hands-down best of show.
Visually, Chris Bernier’s stark white set makes a fine backdrop for the projections, the mod-costumes, and the kaleidoscopic lighting. Some of the projections, however, don’t quite fit Bernier’s scalloped design and therefore become more of a distraction than an asset.
Beehive pays homage to the pioneers of the women’s liberation movement, which certainly feels very timely. More telling though in this context is how the sound of music evolved over the course of this decade. Yes, Beehive has all the makings for a fun and frivolous audience experience, but hopefully, Theatre Raleigh’s next production Junk will provide some heartier fare.
Beehive: The 60’s Musical runs through May 19th at the Kennedy Theatre in Downtown Raleigh. For more information visit: