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“All of a sudden, women had role models in their radios.” Powerful voices drive change in BEEHIVE - The ’60s Musical

May 8, 2024

Director and choreographer David Connolly celebrates the iconic female singers of the ’60s.

Black and white photo of Aretha Franklin in 1968

Aretha Franklin, dubbed the Queen of Soul, used her powerful voice in the fight for civil rights and gender equality. Publicity photo from Billboard, February 1968.

“Endless news about the new President… Civil Rights demonstrations on the rise… Equal pay for women finally being addressed… Anxiety about a future war… Yes, it was the 1960s.”

This prologue to BEEHIVE - The ’60s Musical sets the stage for a celebration of the iconic decade from the perspective of six young women. A tumultuous period of social transformation and changing attitudes comes alive through powerful female voices and classic songs, as well as Wanda, Pattie, Alison, Laura, Gina and Jasmine’s evolving fashions.

BEEHIVE will have audiences reliving the formative years of their youth at Drayton Festival Theatre from June 5 to June 23.

The show is bookmarked with hits that will take them on a flashback trip through the sixties, including “My Boyfriend’s Back”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, and “Make Your Own Kind of Music”.

President John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960, just 40 years after women in the U.S. were granted the right to vote. Despite changes in federal laws, individual states continued to use contrived rules, such as literacy tests, to prevent Black people from participating in elections, until civil rights activists like Martin Luther King – and the less well-known Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash, who certainly deserve greater recognition for their work – successfully campaigned for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The ’60s was a time of great change, especially for women,” says BEEHIVE’s director and choreographer, David Connolly. “Not only will you know all of the music, every single word to every single song, which is always fun in the theatre, you will also see a bit of history that is built into the music.”

BEEHIVE uses a light touch when referring to events like these, as befits a view of the world through the innocent eyes of teenagers, and one of the featured classic hits, “You Don’t Own Me”, adeptly captures their sense of independence as they’re growing up. Lesley Gore recorded the song in 1963 when she was just 17 years old and still in high school.

At the time of its release, the song was regarded as an anthem to women’s empowerment because it showed a young woman standing up for herself against a manipulative suitor.

I don’t tell you what to say,
I don’t tell you what to do,
So, just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you.
I’m young and I love to be young.
I’m free and I love to be free,
To live my life the way I want,
To say and do whatever I please.

Lyrics from "You Don’t Own Me", sung by Lesley Gore

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, had her own anthem and signature song, “Respect”, which is also a highlight of BEEHIVE. It’s now regarded as Franklin’s rebuttal against traditional gender roles, but it was originally performed and recorded in 1965 by its writer, Otis Redding, as quite the opposite. Franklin’s cover two years later – with adapted lyrics – was the bigger hit.

Connolly says, “All of a sudden, women had role models in their radios to reflect who they were and what they stood for. Although it’s wildly entertaining, it is historic, and it’s really inspiring to remember how far that movement came in just 10 years.”

More women began to make their voices heard in the charts during the ’60s, but many of their empowerment records were actually written by men. However, performers like Gore and Franklin were able to take the lyrics and transform them into songs of female liberation. In the decade that followed, the emergence of influential singer-songwriters – including Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Helen Reddy, Carly Simon, and Joan Armatrading – created pop music where women could more fully express themselves, this time in their own words.

Connolly is full of praise for BEEHIVE's cast – Tiffany Deriveau, Kelly Holiff, Caitlyn MacInnis, Laura Mae Nason, Erica Peck and Ocean Williams – who are recreating the era on stage.

“The vocal requirements of this show are among the biggest of any show I’ve worked on because of what those six ladies have to cover. They have to be so diverse in their vocal power and vocal technique. Those women that we’re saluting in this show are all powerhouse singers, and this was the decade of harmony. Not only do they need to have extraordinary solo voices, they need to be able to harmonize beautifully together.”

“We have been really lucky. We found the perfect group of women to meet all of those requirements,” he adds. “They’re likable, they’re funny, they’re highly energetic, they’re everything you need for a really great night of summer theatre. The cast is the warmest, most friendly, feel-good group. I just can’t wait for everybody to meet them.”

Connolly wants everyone who experiences BEEHIVE to be inspired by the show’s songs and performances.

“I hope audiences feel great when they leave. I hope they feel lighter, and that they are re-energized and inspired. These are pioneering women, and we get to celebrate them and honour them and keep their stories and music alive for the next generation.”

“For people to be introduced or reintroduced to those songs on a beautiful summer night in a beautiful town like Drayton, it doesn’t get better than that.”

May 6, 2024

Meet David Connolly, Director and Choreographer for Beehive

Read more about BEEHIVE - The 60s Musical

Drayton Festival Theatre

BEEHIVE - The 60s Musical

June 5 to June 23, 2024