They lined up 20 years ago outside the Howard St. Tavern, waiting to hear Beehive bring back 1960s rock n’ roll. And they packed The Waiting Room on Maple Street 200-strong Saturday to hear the same songs.
Dylan, et al, tell us times are achangin’, so you expect the voices of Sue Booton, Ginny Herman, Kathy Tyree, Tiffany White-Welchen and two who joined them a little later, Donna Ball and Jean Peterson, to have changed over two decades. And you’d be right. Their director, Gordon Cantiello, noticed it when he rehearsed the show last summer.
“They’d gotten better,” he learned. The crowd that filled the room at 1 p.m.—if you can imagine a full house at that time of day—seemed to agree.
It starts the moment the band warms up with the likes of “Where the Boys Are,” and it continues to the closing, “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” These, pardon the expression, “old pros” keep topping each other without letup.
Act One ends with the British invasion, so Sue, Ginny and Jean go mod with Petula Clark’s “Downtown.” The other three start Act Two with Donna, Kathy and Tiffany all Tina Turners with triple layers of white fringe flying as they belt “Rollin’ on the River.”
Before and after, all six deliver one 60s favorite after another, stopping only occasionally to recall signs of the times. Sometimes celeb trivia—Sandra Dee got engaged to Bobby Darin (“It’ll never last”) –and sometimes somber moments—a school girl’s memory of the PA announcement that President Kennedy was dead.
While it’s mostly about the music, they can poke fun at rock divas. When Donna Ball, who began performing in 1976, glides on stage as Diana Ross, she gets snippy glances from the lesser Supremes as she declares, “I have a special place in my heart for one person, ME.”
You can argue with your friends over who can belt ‘em out with the most vocal power. Just when you tout Kathy Tyree, Tiffany White-Welchen is apt to blow the roof off, or Sue Booton will step up as a stoned Janis Joplin and rattle the walls.
Then you can fight about who fills the room with the sweetest sounds: Is it the ageless Donna with her silky smooth style? Does the crowd give an edge to Jean Peterson when they respond to the opening notes of her “Where the Boys Are?” Or was the issue decided when Ginny Herman stole our hearts with “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” or as a weepy Leslie Gore?
How come this show originally ran for 10 straight months in the Old Market and has been revived successfully again and again? It stems first from the music and then from the fact that all six women wow us over and over. And the band guided by Kevin Smith keeps up their end of it, even on Saturday afternoon when Andrew Beckstrom had to hustle his trumpet over from the University of Nebraska at Omaha where he graduated a few hours before.
Credit Cantiello, of course, who flies in from San Diego regularly to give us musical treats such as his triumphant “The World Goes Round.” Sue Booton doubles as choreographer and Rob Lohman not only performs the pre-show but shares costume credit with Jenny Pool. There’s plenty of credit to go around, given the frequent changes as the 60s evolve.
From the Tina Turner flying fringes to the sleek gowns of the Supremes (web sleeves allow Donna’s Diana to spread her arms and obscure her mates), from Brit mini-skirts to hippie garb, the decade runs the gamut. And the wild wigs require program credits both for suppliers and “hair maintenance.”
While there’s never a valley, there’s always a peak and it’s the same one that kept the line stretching around the corner from the Howard Street Tavern 20 years ago. Just when you think nothing can top Tyree doing Aretha Franklin’s “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.,” she blasts into “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.”
And you wonder who can top that? Well, they might not top it, but a couple of hippies make their entrance while Sue’s Janis Joplin weaves her drug-hazed way through the audience and then semi-coherently takes the microphone. Before long, all six join in on “You ain’t nothin’ if you ain’t free.”
Then a little later get ready for the show’s only disappointment. After rocking for more than two hours, no encore follows the standing ovation.
Beehive runs Dec. 22, 23 and 29, with performances at 1 and 5 p.m. at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $35. Call 402.706.0778.