Winters Lane brings 1960s rock divas to life

Review

May 12, 2006|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Winters Lane Productions' lively production of Beehive The 60s Musical celebrates a decade of early rock 'n' roll through the divas who defined it.

Writer/director Larry Gallagher's creation debuted in 1985, and at Chesapeake Art Center's intimate Studio Theatre, six women have taken on the challenge of transforming into pop princesses and rock queens to sing and dance through 40 songs.

The revue recalls the profound changes of the tumultuous decade defined by the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and drugs. Beehive touches on all of these through performers as diverse as the miniskirted, white-booted, beehive-wearing girl singers who evolved into a makeup-free, pants-wearing, spirited Janis Joplin and the triumphant Tina Turner.

Relishing the challenge of recreating the essence of an era before he was born, director/choreographer Darren McDonnell brings back dances like the pony, swim, monkey, twist and shimmy.

McDonnell selected skilled performers who dance with flair, make rapid and elaborate costume changes, and evoke star power with their brilliant singing.

In her second Winters Lane production, Kelli Blackwell shows her wide creative range, delivering a campy version of wholesome Mouseketeer Annette Funicello (complete with a jar of peanut butter) and a fiery, frenetic Tina Turner that nails the diva's facial expressions and sexy strut in triumphant renditions of "A Fool in Love" and "Proud Mary."

Grandmother of two, mellow jazz singer Betty Harriel served up Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin with her early hit "Respect," along with a deeply felt, toasty version of the classic "A Natural Woman."

Katzi Carver delivered on-the-mark versions of Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," switching to an equally authentic Connie Francis in her signature "Where the Boys Are."

Becca Vourvoulas provided some high comedy in her spoof of Leslie Gore's pouting "It's My Party" and stretched further to evoke British songstress Petula Clark with "Don't Sleep in the Subway."

Jeri Marshall made a memorable Winters Lane debut as Diana Ross with impressive versions of "One Fine Day" and "Stop in the Name of Love," nicely summoning up Ross' glamorous aura.

A veteran of previous Winters Lane productions "Always Patsy Cline" and "The Life," Rebecca Perry delivered a heartfelt "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" followed with the Shangri-Las hit and teenage anthem "You Can Never Go Home Anymore."

Later, Perry delivered the highlight of the evening when she practically channeled Janis Joplin in her emotionally raw and powerful "Me & Bobby McGee" and "Ball and Chain" - the solo that closed the show. It was followed by a group rendition of "Make Your Own Kind of Music" to end the evening's entertainment.

In creating all of this, the performers were helped by a terrific group of musicians headed by Ed Myers with Scott Frutchey on piano, Jason Wilson on bass, Jon Rodgerson on guitar and John Kessell on drums.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow and at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Studio Theatre of Chesapeake Arts Center, 194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn Park. Tickets cost $16 for members of the center or Winters Lane Productions and $18 for the general public. Reservations: 410-636-6597.

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