Scruffy, gravel-voiced songwriter Paul Westerberg, the elder statesmen of alternative ’80s-’90s rock, once shocked his flannel-shirted discipleship by declaring that no one had ever recorded a better pop tune than “It’s My Party (and I’ll Cry if I Want To),” the 1963 hit made famous by Lesley Gore. The catchiness of the song’s chorus, its lovely ubiquity, shows just how enduring the deceptively frothy music of the girl-group era would prove to be.
These late-’50s/early’60s starlets wowed with their exquisite harmonies, their tall hair and short skirts, and their rise to popularity just ahead of the Civil Rights movement. Their songs, at first, were never “heavy” — most often they involved thwarted crushes, ruined parties, and other boyfriend-related problems — but the poignancy behind the teen-geared lyrics was palpable. As the decade deepened with major social issues, signature anthems such as “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” turned into a hit by Aretha Franklin in 1967, and “Proud Mary” (Tina Turner’s 1970 version was edgier than than Creedence Clearwater Revival’s original), gave some gravitas to the genre.
Larry Gallagher’s Beehive: The ’60s Musical explores the era with a wall of song including music made popular by the Shirelles, the Supremes, Connie Francis, and even Janis Joplin. The production is orchestrated chronologically — behind all the hits, the audience can experience the subtleties of the changing political influences at work.
Flat Rock Playhouse presents the all-women production this month on the Clive and Nina Allen MainStage. Shaleah Adkisson, Alexis Sims, Danyel Fulton, Galen Crawley, Merrill Pieffer, and Nicole Winter star, accompanied live by a six-part band numbering Alex Shields as music director and on piano, Paul Babelay on drums, Daniel Iannucci on bass, Bill Altman playing guitar, Chris Imhoff on trumpet, and Wes Parker on sax.
Choreographed by Amy Jones and directed by Lisa K. Bryant, the production is practically interactive. “It’s nonstop dance and music,” Bryant tells Bold Life. “[The] choreography really evokes the era. Everyone is encouraged to sing along — and dance in the aisles if they want to.”
Opening October 13 through running through October 30 on the main stage at Flat Rock Playhouse (2661 Greenville Hwy.). Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 8pm; and matinees on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2pm. $15-$40. 828-696-0731. www.flatrockplayhouse.org.