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THEATER REVIEW: A recommendation, with caveats, for Mac-Haydn’s ‘Beehive’

"I am left wondering how much more I would have enjoyed this show had I heard it and not just watched it."

Beehive: The ‘60s Musical
The Mac-Haydn Theatre, Chatham, New York
Created by Larry Gallagher, directed and choreographed by Bryan Knowlton

“Will you still love me tomorrow?”

Technical glitches abounded at the opening night performance of Mac-Haydn’s production of “Beehive: The ‘60s Musical.” Sound designer/operator Whitaker Gardner never got the sound board in gear; as a result, almost nothing could be heard from the singers during the entire first act. It’s a long act, with 20 numbers (21 songs) wonderfully performed by the six superb singers who make up the cast. Director/choreographer Bryan Knowlton keeps his cast almost always on the move, dancing up a storm, gesturing in purely 1960’s fashion, changing costumes, changing wigs. He makes certain there is always something to watch and admire. It’s exhausting, especially if you have to strain to hear more than a few syllables throughout this hour-plus, non-stop presentation. The girls worked so very hard, getting everything right but receiving no aid in the vocal department. It was shame, really, for it looked like their work was wonderful. Hopefully the glitch will be righted and the subsequent performance will all be perfect. That would be a relief and it would be in the Mac-Haydn mode.

Maya Cuevas in “Beehive.” Photo: Ann Kielbasa

As it is hard to praise singers you cannot hear, let me tell you their names: Ashley DeLane Burger, Angie Colonna, Maya Cuevas, Julia Hajjar, Kiara Hines, Mia Sempertegui. Each has a character name, but those names bear little relation to the original singers of these songs. These 1960’s teens flaunt their daring outfits, sing their favorite songs, and emulate the singers they do not imitate, as far as I know. (Again, no sound leaves only supposition.) All six are attractive dancers, which is an immense aid to enjoying the show.

Using the same set as the show it plays with in repertoire each weekend (“The World Goes Round”), designed by Kevin Gleason, “Beehive” plays on a nightclub dancefloor in front of a traditional bandstand. Andrew Gmoser’s lighting design is so very appropriate, never distracting from the intricate combinations Knowlton has conceived. The costumes are character defining and often exquisite in Tiffany Howard’s splendid work. The entire production, in short, works beautifully as it presents, and represents, the 60’s America defined by the songs.

Julia Hajjar in “Beehive.” Photo: Ann Kielbasa

Sadly, I am left wondering how much more I would have enjoyed this show had I heard it and not just watched it. Songs such as “The Name Game,” “Where the Boys Are,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and “To Sir With Love” truly define the decade they’re from and they tell a story that could be the subtle center of the piece, but I don’t remember all the lyrics, and without them to hear, I really don’t know if there is a book of any sort, even implied here. The second act also started quietly, but sound was sneaked in. I could hear the show with its 1968 Woodstock setting. I was there in the rain and mud for not quite three days and remember well how Janis Joplin and others emerged through their music. The second act attempts that and does very well what is needed, but I honestly don’t know what led to it or why. Colonna takes center stage for this brief act and dominates it perfectly.

How I would love to recommend this show. What I know of it, what its on-stage talent shows me, is perfect collaboration among performing artists, but I don’t know how it sounds, so it is with a difficult set of reservations I encourage you to consider what you’ll do. Is the dancing enough to tempt you? I loved it. Will the microphones be set aright? I would hope so and I believe so, but cannot guarantee it. The show needs its vocals. The band, led by Dave Maglione, plays just right. They also played perfectly for the other show, so chances are they will do just fine. What I hate saying is this beehive may hold stingers or the sweetest honey of the mid-20th century. Go if you want to, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“Beehive” plays through the end of the month at the Mac-Haydn Theatre, 1925 Route 203 in Chatham, New York. For information and tickets, call the box office at 518-392-9292 or visit the Mac-Haydn website.

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