If you decide to walk into the theater at Lake Worth Playhouse, make yourself comfortable in the seats as you sip on a drink, and wait as the lights go up, you immediately get transported to the era of love, peace, and hairspray. From Aretha Franklin, to Leslie Gore, Beehive The ’60’s Musical, directed by Carl Barber-Steele will have you dancing, clapping and singing along with the cast. To songs many of you have grown up listening to.
Four flowers that hung from arches are what audiences will see on the stage when they walk in. Three arches, one center stage, and the other two split center on stage right and stage left make up most of the set. A beehive also makes part of the set. These arches were covered with clear plastic sheets, which allowed lighting to really set the environment and mood, at least to me.
The plastic allowed for the lights to be reflected, and the color choices was what really told me where the actor was when she was singing. For example, when Hankerson was singing “Then He Kissed Me”, we see her sitting on the stage by one of the arches. The light that was reflected off the clear plastic on the arches was blue.
This gave me the feeling that she was outside her house, sitting near the front door, looking up at the stars and moon as she dreamed about her kiss. Right at the end, she sings the last line of the song, and her foot props up, as the lights turn pink. The foot popping up is a classic action women do whenever they kiss someone in movies. The lighting working with Hankerson’s choices was such an appealing thing to see.
These beloved and classic songs from the 60’s era weren’t just being sung, but were also told and presented through the perspective of these seven young women who grew up during that time period.
Important themes were talked about, such as the femenist movement that took place, which can be seen in Act 2, marked by the drastic change in wardrobe. Costume designer Franne Lee, who has worked on Broadway shows for design, made the creative choice of taking the actresses from more modest, lengthier outfits that in my eyes represents women being perceived as housewives and more serious, to shorter and more freeing pieces that gave the idea of women beginning to own up to their independence . Each girl had their own unique style, yet collectively brought to life what being a woman in the 60’s must have looked like.
Discrimination was another subject spoken on. Noelle Nicholas was one of the actresses I recalled speaking on this important object in the show. She had a way of delivering those powerful lines that was firm, yet calm and loving. That balance created a meaningful and real moment, which allowed the audience to understand the gravity of what occurred.
Nicholas did not only leave an impact with her words, but she mesmerized the audience with her powerful belt. During the Aretha Franklin melody, accompanying her were Brandi Graham and Pamela Hankerson. This trio had the audience members in a continuous cycle of applauding and cheering. Aretha Franklin is not the easiest artist to pay respect to by singing her songs, but these three were able to accomplish just that.
Another song that sent goosebumps up my arms was “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, led by Holly Michelle Betancourt Ortiz. Ortiz demonstrated throughout the entire show how a sweet and angelic voice can make a song sound so much better than before. The harmonies in that song remained on pitch, and in perfect balance, it could’ve made the whole room feel like they were ascending.
This song was presented with the women sitting on stools, with no choreography or any movement. Though it could’ve been a risk to do so, because it might lose the attention of the audience and appeal, the vocals were so strong that nothing else would’ve been able to take anyone’s attention away from that number. The simplicity is what made that number all the better.
Another voice that completely made me forget about the original version of the song was the voice of Victoria Johnson. Johnson’s voice has such a unique tone that is a delicacy to anyone’s ears. The way I can describe her voice would be smooth like honey. Johnson did not only vocally execute, “My Boyfriend’s Back” perfectly, but showed her strength as an actress. She played with her emotions throughout the whole song, adding rasp exactly where it needed to be to show sassiness and what she was trying to portray. She didn’t just do this with this one song, but with each song she sang. She demonstrated what it was to perform a song, not just sing it, which isn’t easy for all performers.
This show, while entertaining, also had comedic effects. Erin Ragonese brought to life such a naturally hilarious character. The choices she made seemed to me that they were well-thought out. I don’t believe it must have been easy to just find the comedic timing, as well as actions at the beginning. Ragonese’s hard work and dedication to analyzing the show to find her character and bring her to life in a truthful and not over the top way was evident. Not only that, but she managed to hit every note she sang beautifully and made it look effortless, while staying connected to her character.
There were a few moments where I was a little disappointed because I saw a few of the actresses fall out of character during the beginning of the show. I felt a disconnect take place between that character and actress, feeling like they came back to who they were in real life, leaving behind their character on stage. It occurred mostly while they were supporting the actress who was leading a song. It could have been the nerves, since it was their first performance. The positive thing was that this did not continue into the second act.
The second act begins with a high energy as a trio sings “River Deep/Proud Mary”. The story then transitions to the “hippie” era. All seven women were dressed as hippies, and danced as though they were at Woodstock. Rowan Pelfrey gave the funniest version of “hippie dancing” I had ever seen. She had the audience laughing, and probably gave them flashbacks of a time when they were doing the same thing. She truly looked like she was just free, living in the moment. Pelfrey convinced me that she truly was that character. I didn’t see an actor on stage at that moment performing something goofy, but I saw a human just enjoying music and getting in touch with themselves at a festival.
Whether those moments of the actresses dancing as though they were in Woodstock were choreographed by Choreographer Deshon Allen and Assistant Choreographer Jy’ireze Bell-Bennett, or whether it was improvised by the actresses, it is obvious that a lot of thought, and possibly research was put into the choreography.
Throughout the musical numbers, the choreography consisted of popular moves from that era. The dancing wasn’t big and didn’t take up the entire stage, but it was enough to keep the audience entertained. The songs didn’t require really any big choreography, but rather more concert-like movements, like a singer and her back-up dancer. I believe the choreography went well with not just the songs, but also the blocking on stage.
As a younger audience member myself, I did not know all the songs that were sung, but I still found myself amused and captivated by the musical numbers, and stories that these talented ladies were telling.
You still have a few days left to enjoy this sweet and nostalgic show. For tickets, you may purchase by calling the Box Office, or by clicking here. Tickets range from $38-$114.