Remember when female empowerment meant baring thighs in fishnet stockings, knee-high boots and mini-skirts? Or teasing up one's hair into odd styles (like the beehive)? Or when every song by a female group or singer crooned about pushy boys and troubled relationships? Me, too.
In case you don't, turn on, tune in or drop out at the Broadway Theatre of Pitman for their deliciously well-sung production of Larry Gallagher's mid-1980s creation of "Beehive." You'll hear over 40 songs from the 1960s and '70s in a musical revue – most of them about boys and crushes, and nary a scene that would pass the Bechdel test (two women talking about something other than a man).
But who cares with a collection of songs that includes some of the most memorable female hits and singers: Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, the Shirelles and Dusty Springfield. To the credit of director Sarah DuVall Pearson, each actor in this seven-member cast puts her own stamp on hit tunes like "It's My Party" and "You Can't Hurry Love."
Kelly Beamer lends a sultry turn to classics like "You Don't Own Me" and "Son of a Preacher Man." Kelsey McCollaum adds a fun poppy touch to "One Fine Day" and Rachel DeMasi and Lauren Parsons fill the house with smoky vocals on "Where Did Our Love Go" and "My Boyfriend's Back."
Jennie Knackstedt endears in her narration as a wistful teen growing up in a turbulent time, trying to navigate changing mores with stories of her restrictive parents. But other than a few brief historical anecdotes, and a rather flat rendition of "Abraham, Martin, and John," no hint of story line or narrative thread connects each of the musical numbers or sets. It's beyond lazy in concept, even for a musical revue, and without the strong contributions of the cast and a stellar six-piece band (sharp playing especially by Jim Norton on trumpet), it would have bored more than it did.
Kate Orlando's choreography adds some fun, but it's more like watching someone's kid sister dance at a recital. Shawn McGovern's lighting excels when providing a concert feel. But too few costume changes (despite the dazzling dresses designed by Beth Hildebrecht) led each musical set to feel longer than the combined two-hour running time.
By herself, Jenna Kuerzi redeems the entire second act, which centers on a tribute to Woodstock. Here, she powers through three Janis Joplin tunes, thrilling with her own emotionally devastating take on "Cry Baby." As someone that doesn't care much for Joplin's music (or persona), Kuerzi's performance held me captivated in a way that the entire evening failed to accomplish.