Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Beehive: The 60's Musical

Desert Rose Playhouse
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Rob's review of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

Artwork Courtesy of Desert Rose Playhouse
Here's a hoot of a show, created by Larry Gallagher, that features singing, dancing, and tales of joy and woe. And it's in the voice of the women during the 1960s, from the early Phil-Spector-produced girl groups singing Brill Building songs to the female power of Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, and Janis Joplin. The Desert Rose Playhouse dresses it up with a ton of energy, some very nice voices and dancing, and a live band.

The list of 40-plus songs in Beehive: The 60's Musical vary in style from "The Name Game" by Shirley Ellis to "Chain of Fools," written by Don Covay and made famous by Aretha Franklin. No group of six singers can command all of these styles, one after another, with just a few weeks rehearsal, but the cast put together by co-directors Shiela Freed and Michael Montroy do a credible job. On many of the songs—both the sweet early '60s and the belting late '60s—the singers are surprisingly strong.

The cast falls into two groups, one that centers on sweet (Evelyn Coffing and Clara Lambert) and one that centered on brassy (Raelynn Currence, Keesha Hamilton, and Karen Byers). One cast member (Andrea Haskett) plays a range of victim and depressed roles, often in the background with a glowering presence. Not sure how that is supposed to fit in, but it comes across as Debbie Downer, out of place in this otherwise exuberant production.

Beehive is essentially a showcase of female songs from the 1960s that reveal the drastic social changes from the dawn of the decade to the end of the ten-year stretch, when we see the beginning of the women's movement and the height of the anti-war and hippie movements. The story rightly identifies the assignation of JFK as the jolt that sends the decade into a wild tailspin.

For me, the 1960s spans my life from 10 to 20 years old, so I remember each of these songs as they came out. During this decade, whole worlds of music popped up out of nowhere, from the early girl groups, through early Motown, early soul and the beginnings of classic rock.

The musical manages a small nod toward emotional development and a romantic story. We get a look at the odd dreaminess of teenage romance through the lyrics of the early '60s songs—true love can be determined by a kiss. We get the budding women's movement via Leslie's Gore's "You Don't Own Me," and the tragedy of a boyfriend lost during the Vietnam War Tet Offensive.

Yet the joyful music wins the day. During one sequence that moves through a litany of 1960s dances, cast members grab audience members and drag them out to dance. During this particular performance, I was one, and no, I don't remember how to do the mashed potatoes. It was quite the blast.

The band that drives Beehive includes Kathy Morris on drums, Gwen-Marie Lerch on guitar (and technical advisor), and Ben Jacobsen on electric piano. The musicians had to learn 40-some songs in a wide variety of styles, and they do a nice job, through te guitar is a tad subtle in the mix. When Lerch does break through, it is wonderful to hear. The center of the band's sound is Jacobsen's piano. He does a terrific job moving from style to style, often while receiving playful flirts from the cast. Amazingly, this is his first professional gig.

Overall, Beehive is a fun night of music. Freed and Montroy did a commendable job putting together such a wide-ranging review in just a few short weeks. The costumes by Angie's Costumes, Freed, and the cast members are interesting, going with loud 2009 mod-style bold and colorful dress patterns to replicate the mid-1960s. It works. Music direction comes from Coffin and Elizabeth Goldfarb, with music design by Montroy. Lighting design is by Dagmar Garza, and an arm of volunteers worked on the set.

I love this music, so it's not surprising I found this program a ton of fun.

Beehive: The 60's Musical, through July 15, 2018, at Desert Rose Playhouse, 6921 Montgomery Blvd NE, Albuquerque NM. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00. Tickets are $18 for general admission and $15 for students, seniors, and ATC members. For reservations, visit