The Warner Theatre is where the girls are, as "Beehive" buzzes briefly back into town. Last seen last year at Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater, this combination celebration and sendup of the girl-group goop of the '60s is an onstage slumber party that exhilarates with its sheer variety of pop pleasures. Recalling a decade that encompassed the sweet soul of the Chiffons and the Supremes, the micro-melodramas of the Shangri-Las, the clipped chipperness of the female British Invaders and the wild-style blues of Janis Joplin, "Beehive" makes you realize what lean, conservative times these are for pop music.
Only one of the six singers in this national touring company was in the superior Arena incarnation, but that one is Magda Nova, who won a Helen Hayes Award for her performance. The show, which began as a New York nightclub act, has necessarily grown in size and volume to accommodate larger theaters, but it has lost some of its charm in the process.
The girls begin with "The Name Game" (pulling members of the audience up for the "banana-fanna" bit) and romp right on through 40 oldies, shimmying and frugging beneath the giant jukebox set and their own teetering triple-scoop hairdos. The first act culminates in a battle of the bouffants, in which the tear-stained trio of Lesley Gore, Brenda Lee and Connie Francis are supplanted by bleached British birds Petula Clark, Lulu and Dusty Springfield. Act 2 focuses on the dynamic divas of the late '60s, with Cookie Watkins doing double duty as a frenzied Tina Turner and a sensually spiritual Aretha Franklin. The evening's lowest (and loudest) point is Nova's three-song tribute to Joplin, which relies more on hoarseness than heart.
Thebest moments come when the performers skip the cute caricatures and simply deliver the goods -- a song like Annette Funicello's "I Dream About Frankie" doesn't need any help to be funny. Creator and director Larry Gallagher makes a halfhearted attempt to link the progression of pop music with the political events of the day. But most in the audience successfully ignored the armchair sociology and applauded their own memories each time another one of "our songs" rolled around.
Beehive, created and directed by Larry Gallagher. With Lori G. Fulton, Magda Nova, Ann Peck, Louise Sandford, Letha V. Walker, Cookie Watkins. At the Warner Theatre through Oct. 18.