Review: ‘Beehive’ at Spotlighters Theatre

There are times when the theater takes daring artistic risks, asks uncomfortable questions, and exposes the darkest truths about our institutions and ourselves. We love the medium for that. We also love theater when it recognizes that a break from all our worries sure can help a lot. Larry Gallagher’s Beehive is a musical revue where we in the audience know everybody’s name, and are definitely glad we came to Spotlighters to see it.

The cast of 'Beehive' at Spotlighters Theatre. Photo by Shealyn Jae Photography.
The cast of ‘Beehive’ at Spotlighters Theatre. Photo by Shealyn Jae Photography.

Celebrating the 1960s was a big deal in the 1980s. Just as the ‘50s were huge during the ‘70s. We live in a twenty-year rolling nostalgia wave. And there are echoes. 2019 is a great time to look back to when we looked back to the decade when Everything Changed Forever. Beehive takes us straight to the 1960s. An eleventh-hour replacement on Spots’ calendar when they lost the rights to Smokey Joe’s Café, this production is just about as groovy as a pair of white vinyl go-go boots. Directed and choreographed by Quae Simpson with musical direction by LeVar Betts, Beehive delivers where it counts. Is there a plot? Please. Is there singing and dancing? YES, and it is strongly recommended that one wear comfortable shoes to see this show because one WILL find oneself on stage at the end of the first act doing the Pony, the Twist, and the Mashed Potato along with the cast.

And what a cast. In nearly any other venue an ensemble of six would feel like two-thirds of the chorus called in sick. But on Spotlighters’ postage-stamp-sized four-poster stage they blow the roof off the St. Paul Street basement. WITHOUT microphones. Karen Steelman wows, with “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Marela Kay Minosa’s heartbreak is on full display in “It’s My Party.” Danielle Harrow absolutely kills “River Deep, Mountain High.” Rikki Howie dazzles in “You Don’t Own Me.” Timothy David Copney is an absolute treat with “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” and just when you think you’re impressed enough with his performance he reaches into his bag of tricks and pulls out a falsetto that’ll make you howl. Then there’s Asia-Lige Arnold. Asia is here to let you know that American pop music from fifty years ago came from your soul, your gut, and your heart. You better listen to Asia. She brings it.

The small things don’t matter. Not one bit. Nobody cares that the curtain speech is long, because we’re still earworming the pre-show music. No one notices the feather boa feathers that litter the stage after intermission. Nobody gripes about the historical inaccuracies of the book. This isn’t a documentary. There’s no costume designer, no sound designer, and no apology necessary. Beehive is sublime escapism and an unabashedly good time. It closes on April 21. Go see it when you’re in the mood to tap your toes and switch off your brain for a blissful two hours. 

Running Time: Two and a half hours plus a 15-minute intermission.

Beehive plays through April 21, 2019, at Spotlighters Theatre – 817 Saint Paul Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, go online.