Saturday, November 10, 2001

Energetic 'Beehive' slow to catch fire

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The concert-style stage is all psychedelic oranges, pinks and sunshine yellow and emblematic flower-power daisies are splashed everywhere.

        It can only be the Sixties! And when the femme singing sextet prance out in a rainbow of angora, you know it can only be Beehive, the musical revue that sings its way from girl groups to Janis Joplin, working its way from innocence to loss of. It was some decade.

        For everybody who remembers the powerhouse production of a few years back which gave off enough electricity to light the city when it played its first holiday run at Playhouse in the Park, this return (which features better voices) generates less energy, but certainly has enough to light up Mount Adams. Oddly enough both were directed by Pamela Hunt.

        The first act is mostly a goof on the good old days. There's the boyfriend medley which bring Lesley (Gore), Brenda (Lee), Connie (Francis) and Annette (if you have to ask, you don't belong here) together at a Christmas party. And there's plenty of good-natured audience participation with numbers like tongue-twisting “The Name Game” (key word: banana.)

        There are a dazing number of costume and wig changes as the ladies blast through the past. John Carver Sullivan's costumes occasionally rise to truly inspired but it's Kelly Yurko's wigs the show couldn't do without.

        The cast members who show best in the first act are Heather Ayers and Kirsten Wyatt, musical comedy naturals who know how to wink with the material. Too many of their cast mates push too hard.

        Rachel Stern sounds fabulous in her two solos,“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “To Sir With Love,” a mere preview of what's to come in the second act. She also gives a lesson in controlling the mike and not letting it control her. On opening night too many numbers that aren't about screeching were.

        Most of the cast seem more at home with the politicized material of the second act, rooted in civil rights, women's rights and Vietnam protest.

        Joye Ross does a fine strut through “Proud Mary” then tops it with a no holds barred “Respect,” finally providing a spark. When Ms. Stern returns to wrap up the revue with a boozy, trippy salute to Janis Joplin at Woodstock that spark catches fire, which is what we've spent the whole show waiting for.

        Beehive, through Jan. 6, Playhouse in the Park. Eden Park. 421-3888.


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