Manatee Players stage '60s revue

'Beehive' is an Off-Broadway smash that looks at the decade through music

mclear@bradenton.comFebruary 27, 2014 

Alana Opie, Syreeta Banks, Helen Holliday, Ariel Blue, Noelia Altamirano and Briana Lutzi star in "Beehive" at the Manatee Players Performing Arts Center. PHOTO PROVIDED

PICASA

As the 1960s began, teenage girls were talking about Bobby Darin marrying Sandra Dee. Within a few years, they were talking about civil rights. A few years more, and they were talking about equality for women.

The popular music of the era moved right long with them.

"Beehive," which Manatee Players open this weekend in the studio theater at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, looks at that decade through the evolution of it music, and especially though the music of girl groups and female solo artists.

"It basically takes you on a journey from 1960 to 1969, and all the musical styles of those years," said director Kyle Turoff.

Popular music changed drastically in those years, Turoff said. At the beginning of the decade, even the sad songs somehow sounded happy.

"Even through you're singing about heartbreak, you're doing it in a lighthearted way," she said.

By the decade's end, the music from female performers was edgier and more substantial, and it had a social conscience.

"You're going from silly little pop songs to things like 'Natural Woman,' 'Society's Child' and 'Respect'," said Syreeta Banks, one of the six performers in the show.

The societal changes of the era are the framework for the show, but it's mostly a celebration of the music.

Except for a couple of original songs, the music in "Beehive" consists of hits from the '60s, starting with such songs as "The Name Game" and "My Boyfriend's Back," moving through "You Don't Own Me" and "To Sir With Love" and finally into "Piece of My Heart" and "Do Right Woman."

It's a musical revue, not a jukebox musical, and the performers -- besides Banks, there's Noelia Altamirano, Ariel Blue, Helen Holliday, Briana Lutzi and Alana Opie -- call themselves by their own names instead of character names. But the characters age and develop as the show goes on, so the characters, the music and the times all grow more complex and sophisticated.

The show was created by Larry Gallagher, who also directed its early Off-Broadway performances and its first national tour and a production in Japan. "Beehive" ran for more than 600 performances Off-Broadway.

"Beehive" is by far the best-known show by Gallagher, who died of encephalitis in 1988 at age 41.

Details: Feb. 27-March 16, Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theatre at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $26. Information: 941-748-5875, www.manateeplayers.com.

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