Photos by Ryan C. Loyd, RyLo Media Design

This production was scheduled February 9-March 10, 2024.

Six amazing singers, four terrific instrumentalists, and one shining show brought the house to its feet on opening night of SLO REP’s most recent special engagement: Beehive, the 60s Musical.

There’s nothing like a live band, legendary tunes, and captivating performers to electrify an audience—and all three are on stunning display in this two-hour shindig directed and choreographed by the prolific Keenon D. Hooks. Add in skillfully-applied period choreography, bright and eclectic costuming, a set straight out of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and perfect-while-constantly-changing lighting design, and we have a winner of a production that is already nearly sold out for its four-week run.

Don’t come to Beehive expecting plot-driven exposition. This is a compilation of really great music from the 1960s loosely tied together with a few spoken words and an abundance of delightful tributes to the fashion and hairstyles of the day. The number of wigs (beehive and otherwise) and costumes (numerous costume changes progress from early-60s Jackie Kennedy to late-60s beads and bell bottoms) gives wig curator Renee Van Niel and costume designer Barbara Harvey Abbott a chance to strut their top-notch stuff.

The show opens with the sound of hands clapping, so appropriate since the audience can’t help but clap along—then naturally sing along—throughout the show. Moving chronologically from the end of the 1950s after a rousing introduction from our de facto hostess, the amazing Asha Brownie-Gordon, we progress from the silly (“The Name Game”) to the sublime (a Supremes medley filled with shoulder rolls and Diana Ross vibes). The first act falls easily into the Camelot of the Kennedy years, with the amazing Natalie Mara and the amazing Africa Turner proclaiming “My Boyfriend’s Back,” and the amazing Meggie Siegrist crooning “Be My Baby.” The first-act “Beehive Dance” finale neatly shows off the exuberance of the period, with the performers in sparkling sheaths doing the twist, the swim, and the mashed potato.

The second act takes a turn into the post-Kennedy sixties filled with serious themes including civil rights, the women’s movement, and the Vietnam War, but the exuberance remains, morphing into a vitality of passion and purpose. One—but not the only—showstopping number of the evening is brought to us by the amazing Meami Maszewski as she channels Tina Turner in a “River Deep/Proud Mary” mashup. The combination of wardrobe, choreography, and musicianship brings the moment to shimmering life. Channeling another legend, the amazing Mia Mekjian offers up three haunting Janis Joplin numbers, leading to a delightful and triumphant closing number, “Make Your Own Kind of Music.”

The band, under the direction of Michael Wilkins on keys and featuring Bill Starling on guitar, Steve Philip on bass, and Chuck Neely on drums, holds fast throughout the evening and proves as amazing as the vocalists in keeping the engine of this elegant production running.

Beehive is dynamic, moving, and a joy to experience. And yes, it’s groovy, too!

:: Charlotte Alexander