Review: ‘Beehive’ at NextStop Theatre Company

Let yourself drift back and be carried away to another time–the time when music with its rhythms was the center of a young life. Now with that thought, take yourself to the vibrant, energetic production of the musical revue, Beehive at NextStop Theatre.

Shayla Lowe, Allison Bradbury, and Bethel Elias in ‘Beehive’ at NextStop Theatre Company. Photo by Lock & Company.

Under the sure-handed casting and lively guidance of director Monique Midgette, Beehive is a big-hearted, well accomplished, utterly tuneful joy. It puts diverse music, uplifting voices, and energy-laden movement at center stage.

Conceived by Larry Gallagher, Beehive is a celebration of terrific classic music, all originally performed by female singers and groups in the ’60s. Gallagher also added a modicum of a storyline with a narrative about the musical journey of a young woman who turns 14 in 1960. Beehive follows her and other young women, both white and those of color, through the experiences of growing up female during the turbulent 1960s, alluding to assassinations and war and the struggles for civil rights and women’s rights.

The six-member, cracker-jack ensemble of performers includes Rebecca Ballinger, Allison Bradbury, Bethel Elias, Kayla Gross, Shayla Lowe, and Hilary Morrow.

Each of the six performers has the opportunity to stand out by singing and impersonating particular singers. Each also becomes a member of powerhouse backup singers. The six celebrate the music of the ‘60s era with an effervescent attitude. Their smiles, their energy, their singing prowess, and their dancing talent never fade.

Be aware that the voices an audience hears are a marvel of different stylizations and presentation. The chanteuses represented run from Tina Turner to Aretha Franklin, from Dusty Springfield to Connie Francis, from Leslie Gore to Janis Joplin, from Grace Slick to The Shirelles and more. Beehive songs range from dreamy to coy, from flirty to sultry, from boy-crazy to girl power.

To pick favorites from the nearly 30 musical numbers is like picking which of your children you love more or which of your fur-babies you love more. I leave it to you to pick your own favorites after you see the production. But here are some of my favorites for each of the six performers.

Allison Bradbury, Bethel Elias, and Shayla Lowe in 'Beehive' at NextStop Theatre Company. Photo by Lock & Company.
Allison Bradbury, Bethel Elias, and Shayla Lowe in ‘Beehive’ at NextStop Theatre Company. Photo by Lock & Company.

Morrow delivers a defiant rendition of Leslie Gore’s early 1960s hit “You Don’t Own Me.” Bradbury takes an emotional turn as the lead for The Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” then does an inner driven version of  Janis Joplin’s mega-hit “Me and Bobby McGee,” accompanying herself on the acoustic guitar. Ballinger captures the wistful sound of Connie Francis with “Where the Boys Are.” Elias is a total joy when she brings the audience into the production, taking the lead on a rendition of “The Name Game.”

Lowe is simply amazing singing and dancing to classic Tina Turner hits “River Deep, Mountain High” and “Proud Mary.” Gross brings deep soulfulness leading Aretha Franklin icons like “Natural Woman” and “Never Loved a Man.”

NextStop’s Beehive is no stand-and-deliver musical revue. With choreography by Shalyce Hemby, dancing and movement take center stage too. The six ensemble members are on point with The Twist, Monkey Time, The Jerk, and others including snazzy jazzy Motown moves. Even when standing still, emotion drips from the performers as they rock their hips or thrust their hands about. All add immensely to the bright allure of Beehive. If there were an Olympic event for dancing, these six cast members would have my vote for Gold.

The live band is awesome. It was strong but did not overwhelm the singers. But it was a driving force. No matter how many tempo changes or which instrument had the spotlight, there was nary a hitch under the direction of Matthew Brown. The six-piece rock-soul band has a number of alternating band members over the run of Beehive at NextStop.

The era-defining costumes by Sandra Spence were a visually delightful medley of outfits that followed the hemline changes of the era, as did the foot attire including sneakers, shoes, sandals, and go-go boots. The performers had many a costume change, and all were accomplished quickly. I can only praise the great and quiet work done behind the scenes to have each costume at the ready and for quick changes to be accomplished. Maude Salon deserves a special shout-out and a standing ovation for the hair and wigs – they are superlative!

Beehive set design is by Jack Golden. It is as if the audience is seated front row center at a music show, with plenty of fuchsia, purple, and silver shimmering items.

The broad gamut of musical styles covered by Beehive has something for everyone. So, after you see Beehive consider this; go home, find your ancient vinyl collection. Pick some of your own favorite tunes. Then dance away. And don’t forget to lip-sync or sing out. Enjoy as you once did.

Beehive captures a moment in time. The song titles are the soundtrack to many who call the ‘60s “my generation.” The show’s title refers to those famous beehive hairdos and beehive group events. Beehive is fun and nostalgic–why pass that up?

Running Time: About 90 minutes, with one intermission.

Beehive plays through September 22, 2019, at NextStop Theatre – 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA. For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or go online.

Note: Musical numbers

Act I:

“Let’s Rock”

“The Name Game”

“It’s My Party”

“Sweet Talking Guy”

“One Fine Day”

“My Boyfriend’s Back”

“I’ll Never Change Him”

“You Don’t Own Me”

“Where Did Our Love Go?”

“Come See About Me”

“You Can’t Hurry Love”

“Be My Baby”

“Junkman/Academy Award”

“Where the Boys Are”

“Beehive Dance”

“Abraham, Martin and John”

Act II:

“River Deep Mountain High”

“Proud Mary”

“Son of a Preacher Man”

“To Sir With Love”

“Somebody to Love”

“Cry Baby”

“Try”

“Me and Bobby McGee”

“Aretha Medley”

“Never Loved a Man”

“Natural Woman”

“Make Your Own Kind Of Music”