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Stage II is the place to ‘Bee’

/  Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017

Another opening, another hit – “Beehive” at Venice Theatre.

Just two days after the opening of “You Can’t Take It With You” on the MainStage, I was back at the theatre for the opening of “Beehive” in the 90-seat Pinkerton, home of Stage II productions.

The 90-seat space may be small but some of [the] best shows can be seen there, often because of the size of the space.

With Ariel Blue, Syreeta Banks and Vera Samuels in the cast, I was expecting “good.” What we got was great.

Syreeta Banks and Natalie Taylor perform in “Beehive,” a Stage II production at Venice Theatre, through Oct. 22.

Added surprises were the outstanding performances of Charlotte Crowley, Alyssa Pasick and Natalie Taylor. Crowley has been in several Venice Theatre productions, but this time she really rose to the occasion, beehive hair and all, as a perfect complement to this stellar cast. She never stopped moving and grooving.

Recent North Port High grad Alyssa Pasick and Pine View sophomore Natalie Taylor completed the cast by adding their own dynamic personalities and fine voices.

This is a show that many would say merits being performed on the MainStage but in the 90-seat Pinkerton, it is in just the right venue. The audience becomes part of the show, literally, with the “Name Game” song when two ladies in the audience jumped right in when asked to sing their name. They did so to the delight of the rest of us…. “…bo-ba-nee, Bo-na-na fan-na, fo-fa-nee…”

From the beginning, we were in this together, having a really good time, grooving to songs of the ’60s so cleverly directed and choreographed by Steven Flaa.

Resident set designer Tim Wisgerhof created an intimate supper club setting with a multi-level stage including rear orchestra pit area, plenty of sparkle and decorative lighting further enhanced by lighting designer Robert Graham.

The back-up musicians clad in tie-dye T-shirts added more color to a show that any theater would be proud to offer.

Wisgerhof also did the brilliant set for the main stage show, “You Can’t Take It With You.” Having him on staff is another coup for this theater.

So is the return of Jeannette Rybicki who, with costume shop supervisor and wig and make-up designer Jonathan Hall, added plenty of sparkle via a wardrobe and wigs that seemed as fast-paced as the show with several costume changes worked into the choreography.

Not only were the dresses perfect for the show, they fit the ladies perfectly, up, down and all around, something that too often was a weakness in previous years.

Expect to be entertained in the first act with songs that take one back to the turbulent ’60s. In the second act, prepare to be wowed by Banks and Blue and then literally stunned by Samuels, who turns in a performance that was more Janice Joplin than Joplin herself may have been, right down to the swig from a hidden flask after “Me & Bobby McGee.”

While Joplin died long before Samuels was even born, Samuels nailed her. Samuels said she grew up listening to her parents’ recording of Joplin.

“Beehive” continues through Oct. 22, which may not be a long enough run to accommodate all those who will want to see this show, but another show follows a few days later. If you don’t get your tickets soon, you may be disappointed.

Performances begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sundays in the Pinkerton at Venice Theatre, 140 W. Tampa Ave. on the island in Venice. Call the box office at 941-488-1115 or visit: VeniceStage.com.

You can also purchase tickets in person at the box office weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and to 1 p.m., and one hour before shows.

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