The backstage buzz on 'Beehive'

-A A +A

The Arts Council of the Twin Counties/Galax Theatre Guild production opened this week and runs through next weekend at the Rex Theater in downtown Galax. The show features "girl group" music of the 1960s, colorful costumes and big hair.



The dressing room under the stage was abuzz last Thursday night as the cast of “The Beehive” prepared for rehearsal.
The girls chatted and giggled as they teased each other’s hair and practiced pulling their outfits together for opening night.
“Were we supposed to be in costume?” asked Taylor McPherson when she arrived for preparation.
“Nah, we’re just doing this for fun!” said Sandra Hankley, as she admired her teased hair in a nearby mirror.
Fun was clearly one of the biggest factors involved in the Arts Council of the Twin Counties pulling together “The Beehive,” along with the fashion, music and female empowerment of the 1960s. The musical is made up of an entirely female cast ranging from ages 8 to 62. In addition to the “Beehives,” a younger group known as “The Go-Gos” will also perform.
“Just wait until you see them in their outfits,” said director Carolyn Davis, referring to the bright clothing and big hair that was iconic to the decade.
Before rehearsal began, several cast members commented from the stage about the amount of time it takes to create a beehive hairstyle – nearly 3 hours – and suggested that hair appointments needed to be made.
Producer Laura Romanowski of the Arts Council chuckled from the audience. “If any play requires a lot of hair appointments, it’s this one,” she said.
From the dressing room to the stage, the personalities of the actresses never wavered – the atmosphere was just as bubbly wherever they went.
“The cast has been a dream to work with,” said Davis. “There have been no confrontations with the cast at all.”
In addition to good chemistry, each actress has some form of acting, music or dance background. Nancy Hazelwood lends her talent at piano throughout most of the play, with the exception of the Janis Joplin covers, which are played on guitar.
“You have to have a guitar for Janis Joplin,” Hankley said. “Her music just wouldn’t sound right without one.”
The idea for the play was inspired by the success of “Nunsense,” another play that Davis worked with, along with a special request. “I blame Taylor for ‘The Beehive,’” she said. “She told me that she would love to do a musical with me, and after having so much fun with one female-centered story, I thought that ‘The Beehive’ was perfect.”
Originally written by Larry Gallagher, “The Beehive” was purchased from a small publishing company in New York, Davis said. It has a variety of different songs from the 1960s, all of which share a common theme: girl power. There are more than 30 songs featuring favorites by artists such as Tina Turner, Brenda Lee and Aretha Franklin.
The shared goal of the cast and “worker bees” in the crew is to create a lighthearted atmosphere where the audience feels free to loosen up and participate along with the singers. For one of the first songs, “The Name Game,” the girls practiced fanning out into the audience to choose people at random.
According to several members of the cast, a great deal of time and effort is put into getting a play ready. An average of six weeks is put into each play the Arts Council has done, cast members said. Props, costume, choreography and, of course, lots of practice, are required.  It is a labor of love for most of the cast, who, for the most part, have careers unrelated to theatre and participate just for the fun of it.
“This will be Sandra’s first play since high school,” Davis said. “Her daughter just got married, so now she has more time to get back into acting.”
Galax Elementary School music teacher Dawn Kinman was so dedicated to her part, she once slept in her beehive and wore it to school the following day, said Davis.
Everyone is excited to present the results of their collaboration. “I’m a big believer in family theater, and this is something that everyone can enjoy,” Davis said.

Shows are scheduled for Sept. 8, 13 and 15 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a final showing on Sept. 16 at 2:30 p.m.  A special brunch with the cast will be served before the Sunday matinee from noon to 2 p.m. at 104 Main Bistro in downtown Galax. Seats for the brunch are limited and reservations are required. Tickets are $8 per seat, and can be purchased at the Galax Visitor Center, from the Arts Council or online at www.artsculturalcouncil.org. Special prices for groups of 20 or more are available by contacting the Art Council at 238-1217.