I'm not old enough to be nostalgic for the music of the 1960s. When it comes time for my generation to be immortalized in a jukebox musical, it will be the music of Prince, Duran Duran or Bruce Springsteen that tickles those particular emotions (hopefully I eventually make it to New York for the Boss' genuine, Tony-Award winning article).
Still, the cultural and emotional tumult of the '60s reverberates through our country to this day, and the era's songcraft was often exquisite.
Both halves of that equation — cultural change and beautiful pop music — are part of "Beehive, the '60s Musical," the latest crowd-pleasing musical at the Old Log Theatre. It's a thin affair that takes its time to get moving, but by the end the unerring energy of the seven-woman cast and the sheer power of the performers push aside those early doubts.
As the title indicates, "Beehive" is about the music and voices of women in the 1960s, starting with cheery (and not-so cheery) songs made famous by Leslie Gore, Connie Francis, the Ronettes and the Supremes.
The songs are, of course, great. This early section of the show, however, doesn't come together. The arrangements are thin, especially when interpreting Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound." The four-piece band can't keep up with the complexity of those original arrangements, and that drains a lot of energy early on.
It improves once the focus turns to Brits like Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield and then takes off when it heads to the later part of the decade, ending with tunes made famous by Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, with a little trip to San Francisco for Grace Slick on "Somebody to Love."
With the chains off, the company is really able to soar through to the end of the show. There are terrific turns throughout, especially by Allyson Tolbert, who puts on many different musical hats throughout the show, including a terrific turn as the solo Aretha Franklin belting out the likes of "Respect" and as Shirley Bassey and her signature vocal tics on "Goldfinger."
Besting Aretha is pretty tough, but Kiko Laureano (as Tina Turner) and Gracie Anderson (as Janis Joplin) do their best with their moments on stage, as each captures a piece of the essence that makes these performers so unforgettable.
Two of the show's best moments come on songs made most famous by men. As we reach the obligatory Woodstock moments, we get "Woodstock" — with a version that takes more cues from Joni Mitchell's haunting version than the one by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Most memorable is "Abraham, Martin and John," which takes the ode to the fallen heroes of the 1960s and expands it to include all of the people who didn't make it out of the 1960s.
Ed Huyck is a Twin Cities theater critic.