Female singers take center stage in ‘Beehive’ musical

The cast of “Beehive: The ’60s Musical” performs before a beehive-style set designed by Shelley Baish. Photo: Nile Scott Studios

By Rich Fahey

STONEHAM – For those of us who have reached a certain age, the 60’s are still alive and well.

Musically, the decade saw the arrival of the Fab Four and the British Invasion. Mini-skirts and boots were the rage; it was a time of both tumultuous changes and great music, including a music festival called Woodstock.

With so many iconic performers, it would be easy to overlook something else going on in the ’60’s: The number of standout female voices and groups and the timeless hits they produced.

The Greater Boston Stage Company’s production of “Beehive: The ’60s Musical” empowers and celebrates those performers in the decade when girl power met flower power.

The hits they produced are all here, performed by a sextet of female artists — or, in this case, “bees.”  It’s a tight-knit ensemble cast with each member getting a chance to shine.  

The cast includes Bridget Beirne, a mainstay at local and regional theaters who was Audrey in Greater Boston Stage’s “Little Shop of Horrors” and performed the title role in Speakeasy Stage’s “Violet.”

The cast of “Beehive: The ’60s Musical.” Photo: Nile Scott Studios

Temma Beaudreau and Katie Shults were part of Greater Boston Stage’s acclaimed production of “Little Women,” and Elizabeth Adabale is a veteran of several national tours.

Kira Sarai Helper is a Boston Conservatory at Berklee grad and Carrie McKnight, a Maryland native, is making her GBSC debut.

The musical is choreographed and directed by Ilyse Robbins, so that means the movement and dance moves you might associate with those girl groups  – or even the ones you  recall making on the dance floor  — in the 1960s will all be there.

Robbins directed “Beehive” for the Peterborough (N.H.) Players as her first show after the Covid lockdown, and in program remarks she paid tribute to the female artists of the era  and noted  “the bulk of the creatives on this show are female identifying and bring a true and beautiful understanding to the material.”

At a recent performance, the 26 musical numbers spread over two acts were squarely in the wheelhouse of many in the audience, as hit after hit received thunderous ovations.

Songs by girl groups such as The Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and The Crystals’ “Then He kissed Me” were an important part of the soundtrack of the decade, and they were recreated, aided by Robbins’ choreography.  

Act II brought in some iconic voices from later in the decade. Beirne had a chance to bring to life Dusty Springfield (“The Son of a Preacher Man”) Janis Joplin (“Me and Bobby McGee), and Grace Slick (“Somebody to Love.” )

Carrie McKnight psid tribute to Tina Turner and Elizabeth Adabale channeled Aretha Franklin with a medley of her hits.

Shelley Barish’s beehive-themed set is a great backdrop to the music, while costume designer Bethany Mullins has authored a series of colorful and creative designs that had the performers making quick backstage changes.

Assistant music director Jim Rice on the keyboard leads an energetic five-piece band.

“Beehive” is proof that the songs and performers  you loved from the ‘60s have stood the test of time.

The Greater Boston Stage Company production of “Beehive: The ‘60s Musical.” Created by Larry Gallagher. Directed and choreographed by Ilyse Robbins. Music direction by J. Kathleen Castellanos. At the Greater Boston Stage Company through May 7. Greaterbostonstage.org.