“Jersey Boys” and “Beautiful,” hands down the best of the jukebox musicals, celebrate the legacy of particular artists through a kind of theater-concert mashup. But unlike those biographical odes to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (“Jersey Boys”) and Carole King (“Beautiful”), the revue “Beehive: The ‘60s Musical” goes wider in its celebration of music made by women in the 1960s.
Newly opened at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton, “Beehive” is the creation of Larry Gallagher, who has stitched together songs from artists as diverse as Lesley Gore, the Supremes, Lulu, Shirley Bassey and Janis Joplin. A tuneful wallow in Top 40 nostalgia, “Beehive” also aims to celebrate female empowerment through song. Though Gallagher’s book comes up shorter than the cast’s miniskirts, the music most certainly does not.
With staging by Jonathan Van Dyke, choreography by Van Dyke and Angela Morando, and musical direction by Caryl Fantel (who leads the rocking, six-piece onstage band), “Beehive” becomes a blend of concert and fashion show. The seven prodigiously talented performers change wigs nearly as often as they slip from one of Kimberly Wick’s costumes into the next, sporting bouffant dos, ridiculously high beehives, flips, hippie hair and more.
What’s key to the success of the Wick’s production, which packs versions of some 30 songs into a running time of under two hours (including intermission), are the versatile voices of the women who sing those songs.
Sarah Amengual (a University of Miami grad who appeared on Broadway as Maria in “West Side Story”), Amitria Fanae and Trisha Jeffrey are Equity actors; Kristina Huegel, Shelley Keelor, Mallory Newbrough and Leah Sessa are not. Each woman in this beautifully blended cast shines vocally, in solos and groups, whether singing fluffier songs from the early ’60s or the more substantial smash hits that came later.
Happily, the actors get the big audience participation number out of the way early, picking out a couple of theatergoers to get “The Name Game” treatment. Not so happily, although photos of the original artists are sometimes projected as their songs are sung (Michael McClain did the set, Josieu Jean the projections), some in the audience can’t resist guessing who first recorded a song (Lulu really stumped the folks behind me). Note to the talkative: You are not sitting at home watching TV. Others can hear you. Please be quiet and let the professionals entertain everyone.
Among the show’s many highlights, Fanae, Jeffrey and Amengual evoke the Supremes as they do a mashup of “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Come See About Me.” Sessa is joyful and wistful as she sings lead on “Walking in the Rain” by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill (who are also celebrated in “Beautiful”) and Phil Spector.
Keelor and Huegel sing a gorgeous duet on “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by King and her early collaborator (and husband) Gerry Goffin. Amengual demonstrates her range by doing Connie Francis proud on “Where the Boys Are,” then digging into “Chain of Fools.” Jeffrey, just as dazzling as Bassey, tears into “Goldfinger.”
Fanae’s most showstopping sequence comes as she wails the Tina Turner hits “River Deep Mountain High” and “Proud Mary.” Keelor belts “A Natural Woman,” Huegel becomes Grace Slick as she sings “Somebody To Love,” and Newbrough nearly stops the show as she turns into Joplin to sing “Cry Baby” and “Me and Bobby McGee.”
Time was, the older folks who make up so much of the loyal theatergoing audience would seek out revues of songs from the ’40s and ’50s when they were looking for nostalgic entertainment. Now, Baby Boomers have pushed that window into the ’60s. The women of the Wick’s “Beehive” deliver just what they’re longing to hear.
“Beehive” runs through May 14 at the Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, in Boca Raton. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and Saturday-Sunday. Tickets cost $75 and $80. To order, call 561-995-2333 or go to TheWick.org.