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By John Quinn
The Andiamo Novi Theatre opens a brand new season in affiliation with the brand new HappenStance Productions, but the entertainment is strictly old school. “Beehive: The 60s Musical Sensation” is a celebration of the music of that decade, but concentrates on music by women – soloists and girl groups alike. We’re talkin’ ’bout my generation (my generation)! Thus you’ll understand the title’s reference to the iconic hairdo of the period.
The original stage presentation of “Beehive” was launched in 1985. It ran for over 18 months off-Broadway at the Village Gate Theatre in New York City. A revue, it commemorates the decade through its pop music. It is not structured as “The Greatest Hits of 196-fill-in-the-appropriate-integer,” but groups almost 40 songs into medleys. The sorting may be by topic, like “girls with unrequited love,” or “the British Invasion,” or by artist’s catalogue, including Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. It’s a lot of singing in the hour running time of this show, and we may forgive the insertion of a zany tribute to “The Dating Game” that at least gives the songbirds a chance to rest their pipes.
The musical review is a nice match to Andiamo’s cabaret performance space. The production is very lean; it’s played against a black background that is relieved by historically appropriate graphics. The costumes are coordinated, simple, smock dresses with bold patterns in black and white. It’s a five women ensemble – all local artists: Kirsten Knisely, Kira Frabotta, Samantha White, Jaye Stellini and Allyson Ortwein. The focus of the evening is all on the songs.
The voices are clear and the deliveries are clean, with some surprisingly strong lower registers for sopranos. I rarely see a show without learning something I hadn’t caught onto before. This time it’s the change in pop music’s orchestrations between the early and middle ’60s. The heavy percussive beat that marked American music was lost to more complex arrangements mid-decade. Why did this come to mind? The cast is singing to a recorded score, and I found some performances becoming tentative later in the production. It was by no means a distraction, yet one wonders, given the speaker placement, whether the singers could hear the music as well as the audience when it was not underscored by drums.
“Beehive: The 60s Musical Sensation” is an entertaining blast from the past and an encouraging start to the partnership between the theater and the production company. OK, HappenStance, show us what you’ve got!
‘Beehive: The 60s Musical Sensation’
HappenStance Productions at Andiamo Novi Theatre, 42705 Grand River Ave., Novi. Thursday-Sunday through Oct. 9. Tickets: $15-$20; or $49.95-$59.95 for dinner & show packages per couple. For information: 248-348-4448. http://www.andiamonovitheatre.com