WINTER PARK — In 1973, Apple Records released The Red Album, featuring hit songs by The Beatles recorded between 1962-1966, and then The Blue Album, their hits made between 1967-1970. What’s fascinating about listening to both albums is their early songs were light, upbeat, catchy love songs. The recordings on The Blue Album demonstrated just how dramatically the Beatles had expanded their songwriting talents, creating hits that encompassed politics, psychedelic songs, and a much wider range of musical styles. Taken together, the two albums show how rapidly music changed during the 1960s. It was almost like two different decades in one.
Beatlemania, the 1970s Broadway show, captured that nicely, showing how the Beatles’ music came to reflect the often tumultuous events and changing attitudes of the 1960s: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights movement, the polarization over the Vietnam War and the hippie movement, which all helped put the nation on a generational change that singers and songwriters were quick to reflect in their works.
While the Beatles are a great example of how attitudes, styles and opinions changed throughout that decade, Beehive: The 60’s Musical makes a similarly good case for how so many women singers and songwriters did the same. The show uses songs that became popular hits for women artists in the 1960s to demonstrate how a very innocent decade went through rapid social changes.
What Is the Musical Beehive About?
The Winter Park Playhouse just started the new calendar year with this Off-Broadway hit (it runs at the Playhouse through Feb. 22). Created by Larry Gallagher, Beehive is a musical review that’s nostalgic and funny, using six young women to not only bring some superb 60s pop hits to life, but also to chart what made that decade so unique.
It truly did start out as an innocent decade, with a young president, a booming economy — and for so many young girls, some amazing women singers who were taking the charts by storm.
Most of their songs were about love — “Where Did Our Love Go,” “One Fine Day,” “Be My Baby” — that any teenage girl could instantly relate to. Still, some of those songs, like the Carole King classic “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” a major hit for the Shirelles — could speak volumes about the heartbreak that teens were experiencing on their search for their first love.
The women talk about those changing trends — the miniskirt coming onto the scene, the emerging women’s rights movement — and how it all seemed so radical and exciting to them. Then came the Kennedy assassination in November 1963, and they all started to grow up a little faster. As one of the singers noted, by the time the Beatles arrived from Liverpool in 1964, those early 1960s girl groups had been long forgotten.
How is The Winter Park Playhouse’s Production?
If the 1960s isn’t just something you’ve read about, you probably have a clear sense of where the play is headed in the second act, which shows how women singers started breaking out and rocking just like the boys could. And there are some pure delights in the second act, including Amitria Fanae’s sizzling version of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” while Mahalia Gronigan has some similarly electrifying moments as she gives us Janis Joplin singing her rousing blues hit “Cry Baby” and her farewell song, the tender “Me And Bobby McGee.”
All six women in this production — Faith Boles, Jenna Coleman, Noel Marie Matson and Anna de Costa are the others — are fantastically talented singers, and their renditions of these 60’s classics bring them vividly back to life, taking the show well beyond just being a musical revue. The passion they bring to those songs — including their very poignant rendition of the Dion song “Abraham, Martin and John,” which paid tribute to Kennedy and Martin Luther King — help make this production a far more emotional experience than you might initially have expected it would.
Where Can I See This Show?
Beehive: The 60’s Musical is being performed at the Winter Park Playhouse at 711 Orange Ave., Suite C, in Winter Park, now through Feb. 22. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. and select Friday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
In addition to the phenomenal singers, the production features the Playhouse Music Director Christopher Leavy on piano, Sam Forrest on percussion, Sean Powell on guitar, and Ned Wilkinson on multiple instruments.
Ticket prices are $45 for evening shows, $42 for senior evenings, $36 for matinees, and $20 for student and theatrical industry professionals. There are also student rush “$10@10” offers — $10 tickets for students 25 years and younger, which can be purchased 10 minutes prior to a performance when seats are available.
For more tickets and information call the box office at 407-645-0145 or visit the theater online at www.winterparkplayhouse.org .
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.