Remember oldies like "My Boyfriend's Back" and "Respect"? How about "Downtown" or "One Fine Day"? Of course you do -- these and a handful of other classics inundate your commute, season your movies, and turn tricks for corporations looking to sell you a soda. Time may have gone by, but the presence of such blasts from the past has remained as ho-hum regular as traffic and weather on the 8s.
But for those who can't get enough nostalgia, now there's "Beehive: The 60s Musical Sensation," being staged at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater. This production presents a few dozen songs from the '60s -- and, whoops, a couple that didn't chart until the early '70s -- in a retro-jukebox revue that pays homage to the decade's favorite songbirds.
Donning sky-high wigs and costumes that include skirts from poodle to mini, six women imitate performers such as Brenda Lee, Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin as they sing the standbys of each. Except the cast members don't look a whole lot like the stars they're aping. (Annette Funicello, for instance, is black.) And despite acceptably strong voices, they don't much sound like them, either.
There's little here, in fact, to distinguish the show as anything more than high-priced karaoke. Unlike the similarly minded "Mamma Mia!," "Beehive" doesn't even string together its hit list with a story. After an overture medley from the show's five-piece band -- which sits, looking rather bored, on a stage that's decorated only with giant 45s -- the show's narrator, Meena T. Jahi, warms things up with an Aqua Net joke, then sends the rest of the ensemble out into the aisles for an audience-participation rendition of one of the era's more regrettable contributions, "The Name Game."
After the cast members prove that there isn't any name that they can't rhyme, "Beehive's" numbers are presented at a quick pace, some linked by paper-thin setups such as a star-studded Christmas gathering whose brief dialogue leads into "It's My Party," "I'm Sorry" and "Judy's Turn to Cry." Otherwise, between-songs banter is limited to commentary on the happenings of the decade: Vietnam and the assassination of JFK are naturally mentioned, though the tone is mostly kept light with talk of fashion and treacle such as, "Women who grew up in the '60s were given a dream -- the American dream!"
"Beehive" is best when it's not taking itself seriously, such as its mocking Supremes medley in which Diana Ross (Terry Norman) hogs the stage, flailing her arms in the faces of . . . you know, those other two. (Even the playbill doesn't credit the performers accompanying Norman.) The production's lowest point is its tribute to Janis Joplin: Though Amy Lynn Zanetto performs a fiery rendition of "Ball and Chain," the band's Muzak-y "Me and Bobby McGee" is only slightly less ridiculous than Zanetto's witchlike wig, bottle of Jack Daniel's and boozy stumbling, the combination of which makes for a spectacle reminiscent of a "Saturday Night Live" parody.
And if you think there's only one Tina Turner, think again: "Beehive" offers three incarnations of the leggy diva in various phases of her career, performed in succession by two cast members (Norman and Tamula Browning). There are also two versions of Aretha Franklin, played by Browning and Alena Watters, who at one point share the stage -- and when Aretha No. 1 and Aretha No. 2 start walking toward each other as they sing a duet, it's more than a little creepy.
The well-intentioned "Beehive" may be an innocuous way to spend two hours, but it will likely leave true music lovers wishing they had just stuck to their record collections.
Beehive: The 60s Musical Sensation, created by Larry Gallagher. Directed and choreographed by Ray Kennedy. Lighting, Jeff Otto-Cramer; set, Lizz Otto-Cramer; sound, Joe Stanton; costumes, Charlotte Henderson. Approximately 2 hours. Through Aug. 8 at Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.