Photo of Mary Louise Lee, Sarah Rex, Tracy Warren, Lisa Payton, and Lindsay Okasaki
(L to R) Mary Louise Lee, Sarah Rex,
Tracy Warren, Lisa Payton
and Lindsay Okasaki
If Beehive were just a musical review of hits from the '60's, it would be a light, pleasing evening of entertainment. But with its focus on female singers and songwriters from that period, the tuner becomes an intriguing mix of heartfelt, innocent melodies and challenging feminist declarations that reflect a decade of abrupt social change.

In Country Dinner Playhouse's current production, director Rick Seeber's vast experience at mounting this show (he has the franchise) is particularly evident in the casting, where voices and physical types are mixed and matched with aplomb to the various recording artists associated with each of the 35 highlighted hits.

Photo of Mary Louise Lee as the Narrator
Mary Louise Lee
as the Narrator
From the moment Mary Louise Lee puts a coin in the Wurlitzer jukebox, the joint jumps with credible impersonations of the famous girl groups and idols from the early sixties—The Chiffons, The Shirelles, The Supremes, Leslie Gore, Brenda Lee, Connie Francis, etc.—to the edgier and soulful artists of late sixties—Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner, Janis Ian, and Aretha Franklin.

Lee, who has anchored a string of musical hits in Denver, including Menopause the Musical and The 1940's Radio Hour, once again astounds us with her rich, soulful renditions of such tunes as "Sweet Talkin' Guy," "The Beat Goes On," "Make Your Own Kind of Music," and the title number.

She and her cohorts engage the audience right from the top, with a participatory number, "The Name Game," making the customary fools of a couple of unsuspecting, but genial participants selected at random.

Photo of Lisa Payton, center, as Tina Turner with the Ikettes, left, Sarah Rex and, right, Mary Louise Lee
Lisa Payton, center, as Tina Turner
with the Ikettes, left, Sarah Rex
and, right, Mary Louise Lee
The rest of the ensemble is equally rich to Lee in talent and national touring experience, and includes: Lindsay Okasaki, who blows us away with "One Fine Day"; Lisa Payton, whose send-up of Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" is uncanny; Sarah Rex, who puts her heart on the line with "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"; and Tracy Warren, whose ballads—the dreamy "Where the Boys Are" and plaintive "I Can't See You Anymore"—provide a pleasing emotional contrast to the pop rock and Motown numbers.

Beefing up their usual percussion and keyboards in the pit with tenor sax and guitar, the house band provides solid accompaniment for the talented singers, and gets to shine with a couple of brief but slick instrumentals at the top of each act. The mix, however, including the vocals, is at times muddy, and there are intermittent feedback, cuing, and levels problems with the singers' mikes that need to get ironed out.

Photo of Tracy Warren as Petula Clark
Tracy Warren
as Petula Clark
Enough can't be said about Joanne Kearns' bright, fun costumes and Diana Be-Kiki's outrageous wigs, which, like the Cadillac's fins, capture the period's over-the-top aspects.

Though the storyline is thin—mostly confined to Mary's reminiscence of her adolescence and coming of age during the era, supplemented with occasional vignettes revolving around her and her friends—it serves the purpose of giving context to what is, after all, a musical celebration of one generation's discovery of the joys of love and harsh realities of adult life.

Country Dinner Playhouse's production of Beehive runs through May 8th. 303-799-1410.

Bob Bows


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