Sunday, May 9, 2021

"Beehive" streaming from Lakeshore Players Theatre

Lakeshore Players Theatre, the community theater of White Bear Lake, has been continuously operating since 1953. They weren't about to let a little thing like a pandemic that paused all live performances end that streak. Their virtual 67 3/4th season is now wrapping up with Beehive: the '60s Musical, recorded on stage at their gorgeous new home Hanifl Performing Arts Center. I watched it virtually with a friend that lives halfway across the country, and at the end she commented "that was swell." There's nothing new or ground-breaking about this benign jukebox musical, but it's chock full of songs that we love from the 1960s, well performed by a diverse all-female cast. That is pretty swell, and you can watch it from the safety and comfort of your own home at specific showtimes through May 16. And then mark your calendar for a special outdoor* performance of one of my favorite Sondheim musicals, Company, in July.

Rather than a jukebox musical that tries to force a story into the songs, Beehive is truly about the unforgettable music of an era, particularly songs sung by women. Wanda (Deidre Cochran) walks us through the '60s, a decade that saw great changes from beginning to end, not just in the music but also politics, social norms, the rights of women and people of color, and fashion. She and her five friends (Gracie Anderson, Myia Butler, Erin Nicole Farsté, Carolyn Schmitz, and Lisa Vogel) perform over two dozen songs, almost every one instantly recognizable. Wanda and the other women share short stories or background info to connect the songs into a sort of 75-minute storyline of the '60s through music.

Theater on my TV: the cast of Beehive
The show starts off with the girl groups of the early '60s, and after an unnecessary intermission (forgivable because it allows for costume changes from early '60s full skirts to late '60 sheath dresses) we move on to Tina Turner (served up by an emerging star from these virtual times, Myia Butler) and the Woodstock era (with Gracie Anderson proving she can do Janis as well as she does Patsy and Rosemary). Everyone in the talented six-woman cast gets a chance to shine, as well as provide some lovely harmonies. Despite singing to recorded tracks (a no-no in live theater that matters less when the sound is coming through my TV speakers), they sound great (with music direction by Kyle Picha), and director Vanessa Brooke Agnes keeps them moving around the stage from one elevated platform with oversized frame to another.

Like all of these recorded shows, it would have been so much fun to be there in person to experience the energy of live music and performance. But cheers and applause from the crew and others involved in the filming made it feel almost like real theater. Season 67 3/4 has been a great way for LPT to remain connected to their audience during this extended intermission, and I look forward to returning to White Bear Lake for Season 68!

*Click here for a list of outdoor performances this spring/summer/fall.