Songs for the soul

Cabrillo Stage's "Beehive: The 60s Musical" opens tonight at the Crocker Theater in Aptos. (Contributed image)

Cabrillo Stage’s ‘Beehive: The 60s Musical’ opens tonight

APTOS—The Cabrillo Stage Summer Musical Festival kicks off tonight with the opening of “Beehive: The 60s Musical,” featuring a cast of female singers and live band at the Crocker Theater in Aptos.

“Beehive,” named for a popular women’s hairstyle in the 1960s, originally opened in a small, off-Broadway cabaret club in 1982. Gradually it grew, and has since been performed in theaters across the country.

Cabrillo Stage’s production is directed by Gary John La Rosa, a guest director from New York City.

“When [‘Beehive’] was first conceived, it was kind of fondly poking fun and reminiscing about the 1960s,” La Rosa said. “But it turned into something meaningful. The era was a tumultuous moment in history and its music reflects that.”

“Beehive” features a cast of six woman, each paying tribute to female singers of the 1960s—from Aretha Franklin to Janis Joplin. La Rosa said that he was impressed with Cabrillo Stage’s cast.

“Every cast has its own chemistry,” he said. “These woman are all so different, and that’s important to evoke the feeling of the singers. I’m thrilled with the talent we’ve found.”

He also praised set designer Skip Epperson.

“It might be the most detailed set ever made for this show,” he said.

Unlike most productions that Cabrillo Stage has undertaken since its inaugural season in 1981, “Beehive” does not follow a typical story structure—it’s more of a musical review, retelling the history of the 1960s through song.

“Female singers were very popular,” La Rosa said. “And then you had the British Invasion, the Beatles—and the Vietnam War. Everything was changing.”

La Rosa said he met Cabrillo Stage Artistic Director Jon Nordgren years ago. They discussed possibly working together, but their schedules never aligned until now. Both have worked on productions of “Beehive” with different companies.

“This show is first and foremost about women,” said Nordgren, who will conduct and play in the show’s six-piece band. “The 1960s were a huge time for women making incredible strides for equal rights. We are suddenly in another era of change with the #MeToo movement. It made sense to bring back this show.”

Cabrillo Stage recently held promotional appearances throughout Santa Cruz County. La Rosa said it went over very well with nostalgic older audiences, but also introduced the music to a new generation.

“Some younger people weren’t familiar with the songs,” La Rosa said. “They were amazed at how wonderful they were.”

“We got standing ovations,” added Nordgren. “The songs really connect with people.”

Cast and crew have been preparing for weeks for opening night. On Thursday they held a preview performance, where they had a chance to run through the show and work out issues. La Rosa said he was very satisfied with the enthusiasm of everyone involved.

“If the cast is having fun, the audience will too,” he said.

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Cabrillo Stage’s “Beehive: The 60s Musical” will run until July 14. Evening performances and Sunday matinees are scheduled, plus a special Saturday matinee July 13. Tickets are available at cabrillostage.com. The Crocker Theater is located in Aptos at Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Dr. in lower campus. For information call 479-6154.

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