- Cast members rehearse for Beehive: The ‘60s Musical, running April 12-May 4 at The Pollard Theatre in Guthrie.
Some beehives have more than one queen.
Featuring songs made famous by Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin and more, Beehive: The ’60s Musical runs April 12-May 4 at The Pollard Theatre, 120 W. Harrison Ave., in Guthrie.
“It’s basically the story of women in rock ’n’ roll from the 1960s,” said Timothy Stewart, the show’s director. “It’s about women’s voices in the civil rights movement and the women’s movement for equal rights and equal pay. That’s where it all started.”
Pollard staged a previous incarnation of Beehive in 2008, which Stewart also directed. He is excited to be revisiting the musical because it was popular with the audience and the cast.
“I love the show,” Stewart said. “I love the music. I think it’s very empowering for women, and it’s just a good time for audience members just to come watch, sing along. It’s music that they know, so it’s a fun time.”
The cast includes Susan Riley, Megan Montgomery and De’Vin Lewis as well as Jennifer Teel and Stefani Fortney, who both starred in Pollard’s 2008 production.
“It’s what people would call a jukebox musical,” Stewart said, “so there is a framework surrounding one of the characters, and she is sort of actually the narrator, who will take you through the journey, so you can see it through her eyes. The character’s name is Wanda in the script, but the way this show is formatted, you use the actors’ real names, so in our production, it’s Susan Riley.”
Though Stewart said he missed growing up in the 1960s “by a hair,” the decade was still very present in his childhood and in American pop culture in general.
“I grew up listening to the music; it was a staple in our household,” Stewart said. “You have a basic understanding of the ’60s as a time period, and a lot of these women that are in the show themselves knew of these women in rock ’n’ roll. They know who Dusty Springfield and Petula Clark are; they know who Janis Joplin is.”
And 21st-century technology can be useful for researching the previous century.
“Of course, there’s YouTube videos out there that they can watch of the actual performers singing these songs, so they can get a sense of their voice and their movement from the period itself,” Stewart said.
Working on Beehive has also offered an opportunity to research ’60s trivia.
“I learned new things, just personal details, about some of the individual women,” he said. “You know, Janis Joplin’s drink of choice was Southern Comfort and little things like that.”
Stewart is also credited as the show’s choreographer, but he said he “[uses] that term loosely because Beehive does not feature many elaborate or difficult dance routines.”
“It’s a lot of girl-group choreography, so it’s step-touching and the arm movements of The Supremes,” he said. “It’s not a high dance show.”
The biggest choreography challenge, Stewart said, has been figuring out how to recreate a performance of “Proud Mary” in the style of Tina Turner.
“Of course, you make it work for your show, and for your actors, and their skill level too, so I mean, all of them are very talented singers and actors and dancers, but something that looks good on Tina Turner’s body does not look good on someone else’s body, if that makes sense,” he said. “You try to pay homage to these women in rock ’n’ roll, but you’re not these women, so you give them the best imitation and salute that you can to honor them.”
Other songs featured in the show include “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Be My Baby,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Me and Bobby McGee” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman.”
“When you’re putting them all together and back to back, it sends a powerful message,” Stewart said. “If you listen to one song, it’s just a fun song by itself, but putting it with another, you create a very strong show that’s a voice for women.”
Queens of soul
The show’s soundtrack is uplifting, Stewart said, but some of it is played for laughs.
“‘You Don’t Own Me’ by Lesley Gore is delivered in a way that is more comedic than the power song that was in that era,” Stewart said. “We do go tongue-in-cheek with some of it.”
Mostly, though, Beehive is meant as a tribute to these ’60s pop icons and their continued influence. While none can be duplicated, Stewart said, some of the power of their presence can be captured by skilled performances in a live setting.
“The show itself is paying respects to these women in rock ’n’ roll and doing them justice and delivering it in a way that is accessible to your audience so they come to the show and have a good time themselves,” Stewart said. “It’s finding that balance between honoring the women and making sure it’s just a fun time for everybody. We want to do our best person impersonation, but I’m not saying that these actresses are these women. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, or so they say, and you want to give them the best imitation that you can, but you still want to be who you are because there was only one Tina Turner or Aretha or Janis. So you want to give the audience a taste of what they were or are, but you are still yourself. And just have fun because when you’re up there having fun, the audience is going to have fun too.”
Whether or not audience members lived through the era, Stewart said almost everyone knows the music, and the personalities that created it are as timeless as the songs themselves.
“Younger people who knew the songs, who knew the music can come and enjoy it,” Stewart said. “My parents knew the music, and so I knew the music through them. So, yes, you’ve got the people who were there in the ’60s and knew these people, but some of these women have spanned past the ’60s. I mean, they’re not just from the ’60s. Tina Turner’s around, and she’s still rocking, and Aretha Franklin, everyone knows who she is. She’s the Queen of Soul, so it transcends just the era that it’s set in.”
Tickets are $15-$30. Visit thepollard.org.