- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

If musicals such as “Hairspray!” have whetted your appetite for ‘60s music, girl groups and hairdos that look like ice cream cones shellacked with Aqua-Net, “Beehive” is the show for you. This frenetically paced salute to girl power is “Forever Plaid” with cleavage, a tuneful and mindless trip down the AM radio dial.

The Kennedy Center’s production marks the 20th anniversary of the musical revue, which reminds you of “Grease” and other nostalgia shows, only blissfully unencumbered by a plot line. Six singers (Meena T. Jahi, Lori Eure, Terry Norman, Alena Watters, Tamula Browning and Amy Lynn Zanetto) and a six-piece band thunder through more than 40 Top 40 hits from the ‘60s and early ‘70s, pausing only for breath and an impressive number of costume and wig changes.

Serving as a narrator of sorts, Miss Jahi weaves together the songs and the seismic cultural upheavals in light patter that touches on the changes girl groups — and women — went through as they moved from poodle skirts and mincing dance steps to the bell-bottoms and freewheeling sprawl of the Woodstock era.

The songs changed, too, going from worrying about prom night and what boys think to hard-driving commentaries on racism, women’s lib and earning a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

“Beehive” begins in the early ‘60s, with bright and boppy renditions of “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “The Name Game,” the latter of which included audience participation and one baby boomer named Fran gamely dancing the swim during her stint in the spotlight.

The boxy dance steps and harmonies of such girl groups as the Chiffons, Shirelles and Shangri-Las are featured in the numbers “Sweet Talkin’ Guy,” “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” (which Miss Watters delivers with comic mock-breathiness), and “One Fine Day.”

Things get helium-woozy when “Beehive” highlights the girly-girl solo singers Brenda Lee, Leslie Gore, Connie Francis and Annette Funicello — played by Miss Norman (wearing mouse ears and brandishing a jar of peanut butter). She sings the novelty tune “I Dream About Frankie” with a hypercheerfulness that gives the impersonation a nice crisp edge. Miss Watters is also a standout, singing “You Don’t Own Me” with dramatic conviction.

What would a show about female singers be without a Supremes tribute? “Beehive” zips through the Supremes’ hits, including “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Come See About Me” and “I Hear a Symphony” while a grandstanding Diana Ross (Miss Norman) tries to hog the spotlight — and the ostrich feathers fly.

The second act concentrates on the musical and cultural revolutions of the ‘60s and early ‘70s, starting with a blazing tribute to Tina Turner, who is so talented it apparently takes two actors to impersonate her: Miss Browning and Miss Norman. Both play the legendarily leggy chanteuse, executing spot-on versions of “River Deep, Mountain High” and “Proud Mary.”

Other than Miss Watters and Miss Browning providing a direct, powerful duet of “Do Right Woman” and “Natural Woman,” the show drifts into uncertain waters once it gets into the age of flower power.

Miss Zanetto packs a powerhouse voice into a petite frame, but her take on Janis Joplin is unfocused and, as a result, is more shrieky than bluesy. Miss Eure also does a drippy, tepid job on Janice Ian’s “Society’s Child,” thereby diluting its message about racism.

For the most part, however, “Beehive” offers strong vocals, tight choreography and an appealing young cast of women who seem to be having fun wearing the crazy fashion fads of the era. It also gives audiences a chance to relive a time when girls didn’t just want to have fun — they had it.

***

WHAT: “Beehive: The 60s Musical Sensation”

WHERE: Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Aug. 8.

TICKETS: $45 to $48

PHONE: 202/467-4600

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