By Sue Merrell
“Beehive” at Mason Street Warehouse is buzzing with much more than the music of the ’60s.
It’s a parade of fashions and hairstyles, a newsreel of sad and funny memories, and a showcase of six versatile singers.
There are no backup singers in this show. Even during a tribute to girl groups such as the Chiffons, the Angels and the Shirelles, ensemble members rotate from the “shoop, shoop” moves in the back to the microphone in the front. Not only does this give the audience a chance to see three different interpretations of such icons as Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner, but it gives each performer plenty of opportunity to shine in various styles.
The show opens with instant laughter, as the six cast members appear in huge beehive hairstyles that easily add a foot to each one’s height. That lasts through “The Name Game,” which pulls a few members of the audience into the “banana, fanna, foe, fanna” rhyme and introduces the cast. But before you can say “lose that wig,” three ensemble members appear sleek and sparkly as a girl group trio. A few choruses of “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “One Fine Day,” and that trio is replaced by another, then another. Wig and costume quick changes throughout the evening make the cast seem much larger.
Some of the songs are presented in the style of the artists who made them famous. For instance, Crystal Sha’nae portrays the ultra-controlled and sophisticated Diana Ross in Supremes’ renditions of “Where Did Our Love Go?” “Come See about Me” and “I Hear a Symphony.” Later in the evening she gives a much more expressive performance as Tina Turner singing “A Fool in Love.”
A collection of British imports were also given the “sound alike” treatment with Amy Goldberger singing “Downtown” and “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” a la Petula Clark, Sandy Zweir belting Lulu’s “To Sir with Love,” and Laurie Elizabeth Gardner conjuring Dusty Springfield for “Wishin’ and Hopin” and “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.” Near the end of the evening, Sweir also gives an outstanding three-song portrayal of Janis Joplin in bell bottoms.
But director Kurt Stamm sets aside a whole section of songs to be delivered in a campy, over-the-top style that keeps the laughs rolling. Gardner manages to sing “It’s my Party” while forking down cake, and is equally humorous on “You Don’t Own Me.” Goldberger turns on the laughs with an exaggerated “I’m Sorry.”
The evening has a strong serious side as well. Sonny Bono’s “The Beat Goes On” serves as background for commentary on some of the events of the era, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. News video is shown on a huge mock television screen with foil-wrapped antennae protruding from the top.
The giant mock television slides in and out as needed in Todd Engle’s flower power pink set with a raised platform in the center, bead-draped entrances on either side and lighted flower and peace symbols on the ends. Music director Charles Hutchins and his five-piece ensemble are nestled off to one side of the stage so the drums, guitars and horns are part of the action.
One of the surprise standouts in the cast is recent Western Michigan University grad Kellie Goddard, who garnered hoots and applause for her humorous song “Academy Award.” Later she gave plenty of class and power to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” sharing the spotlight with her backups, U of M junior Solea Pfeiffer and Crystal Sha ‘nae. The elegantly tall and lean Pfeiffer also packed some punch with Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.”
An audience sing-along of “Sunshine, Lollipops and Roses” received moderate response. There was probably even more impromptu clapping along to the Janis Joplin set near the end of the show.
The chronological arrangement of the show, and Stamm’s addition of video clips, turns the evening into more of a retrospective of a decade and the monumental changes that occurred.
The “beehive” was just the beginning!
Mason Street Warehouse
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
400 Culver St., Saugatuck
8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19, 26
8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, 27
8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, 28
8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, 29
8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16, 23, 30
7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17, 24
2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31