Rockin' the Beehive - a review of "Beehive the 60's Musical" at Workshop Theatre by Melissa Swick Ellington

There are plenty of good reasons why Beehive - the 60's Musical has been brought back to the Workshop Theatre stage after a successful run fifteen years ago, and eight of them light up the performance with stunning vocals and infectious energy. Jocelyn Sanders and Daniel Gainey provide expert direction that shapes a fluid journey through 1960’s music, as the eight performers celebrate female singers and songwriters. While the first act presents a vivacious stroll through girl groups of the early sixties, the second half of the show really rocks the house with the rough, raw sounds of Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, and Janis Joplin. Medleys combine excerpts of familiar favorites through fictional characters, as in the extended party sequence that features “It’s My Party,” “I’m Sorry,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” among others. beehive2

The Beehive ladies excel at inviting the audience into their world, as the performers handle the audience participation segments with friendly enthusiasm. Valdina Hall, a consummate musical theatre performer and a cast member in the first Beehive production at Workshop, launches the show with confidence. Her warmth and magnetism permeate the occasions when she addresses the audience directly, one of the show’s many strengths. (I enjoyed the good fortune of attending Beehive as the middle member of three generations of girls who love to sing. My mother observed, “When Valdina is on stage, you just feel like everything is going to be all right.”) Jordan Harper’s exquisite yearning and soaring vocals illuminate “Where the Boys Are” and “To Sir With Love,” while Tameshia Magwood thrills with her stirring rendition of “Proud Mary.” Devin Anderson is a true powerhouse who fires up the stage in “One Fine Day,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “Respect.” The rest of the cast (Rayana Briggs, Roxanne Livingston, Brandi Smith, and Safiya Whitehead) brings versatile talent to a slew of musical numbers; the directors deserve commendation for insightful pairings of singers with songs.

The design team makes cohesive choices that support the production with efficiency and purpose. Randy Strange’s scenic design features dynamic visuals and useful levels, while Barry Sparks provides masterful lighting design. The placement of the excellent band onstage proves valuable, as the music (directed by Roland Haynes, Jr.) is front and center throughout the performance. The band’s presence also enables energizing interaction with the performers. Singers and musicians benefit from Baxter Engle’s effective sound design. Choreography by Barbara Howse-Diemer evokes the girl groups of the sixties, evolving through different movement styles as the decade progresses. Costume designer Alexis Doktor provides visual evidence of the decade’s social changes as the performers replace pastel florals with psychedelic miniskirts.  Expectation of impressive wigs and hairstyles comes with the territory in a show called Beehive, and this production does not disappoint. Bobby Craft’s expertise as stage manager keeps the energetic show running smoothly. Design elements work very well together; the lighting and choreography establish a definite shift in tone with “The Beat Goes On.” A few issues with clarity of spoken dialogue over band accompaniment early in the show and a couple of awkward transitions are minor quibbles in light of Beehive’s audience-pleasing power. My young daughter proclaimed upon leaving the theatre, “That was a great show!”

Beehive at Workshop Theatre delivers an entertaining showcase of 1960’s music through the considerable talents of eight versatile and hard-working performers. Beehive earned great buzz from responsive audiences on opening weekend and deserves to pack the house with sixties music lovers through the remaining performances. Be assured that this production is not a series of imitations of the original singers. These Beehive performers make unique contributions to create something that is at once both nostalgic and new.

Beehive the 60's Musical  continues at Workshop Theatre through Saturday, September 28, with curtain at 8 PM, except for a 3:00 PM Sunday matinee on September 22. Contact the Workshop Theatre Box Office at 803-799-4876 for ticket information, or visit

~ Melissa Swick Ellington


Jasper   welcomes a new critic to our theatre team.  Melissa Swick Ellington earned a Ph.D. in Educational Theatre from New York University. She has directed or performed in numerous productions in professional, community, and educational theatres in New York and South Carolina. She taught theatre in K-12 and university settings for over a dozen years.

When Cocoa Meets the Craft!


It's no secret that we here at Jasper - The Word on Columbia Arts just love us some Bobby Craft.  He's the gifted singer/dancer/actor who has been impishly stealing scenes (and the hearts of audiences) since the 70's, playing everyone from the outrageous Jacob in La Cage aux Folles, to the charismatic Lead Player in Pippin, from Chorus Line's Richie to the Scarecrow in The Wiz.  We love Broadway Bobby so much that we featured him in our second issue (which can still be found online at Just say his name in the local theatre community, and you're sure to get a smile, and then a story about some backstage prank or onstage improvisation. We're still pretty sure he's the only dancer in town who has ever gotten away with ad-libbing some dance moves in the middle of a performance by the Columbia City Ballet.

Imagine our surprise, then, when we discovered that the champ has a challenger!  The contender is Chauntel Demetrius Bland, aka "Sweet Hot Cocoa." "SHC" as he's informally known is a new player on the performance scene, making a splash in recent shows at Town Theatre  like Beauty and the Beast, and White Christmas, a line from the latter actually inspiring his unique sobriquet. An attorney by day, Bland has been arguing his case, making his appeal, and talkin' some serious smack as to who has the best moves: Broadway Bobby or Sweet Hot Cocoa?   The solution is one only found within the arcane, near-legendary lore and traditions of community theatre: a dance-off!

This Saturday, Feb. 25th marks When the Cocoa Meets the Craft. Doors will open for music and dancing at 8:30 PM at Columbia's Town Theatre, located at 1012 Sumter Street, in the block between the State House and USC's Horseshoe.  Where else but the nation's longest-operating community theatre for a battle of the ages between baby boomer Craft and Gen-Xer Bland?  Refreshments, including cool beverages, will be available on the patio, door prizes will be awarded, and admission is a mere $5.  But bring plenty of extra cash, for the opportunity to "donate" points to the contestant of your choice.  You see, proceeds from the event will go towards the much-needed replacement of the Town Theatre roof, the cost of which is estimated at $50,000, so your generosity will help "raise the roof" both figuratively and literally!

Attendees are encouraged to arrive early and join the onstage dance party before enjoying the actual show, which begins at 9:30.  Expect plenty of trash-talking from "managers" Chip Collins (seen in shows like Peter Pan and Harvey at Town, and the recent Chicago at the Kershaw Fine Arts Ctr.) and Rob Sprankle (South Pacific, The King And I, Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings) - we're thinking there'd better not be any folding chairs around. Also featured are musical performances by some of Town Theatre's finest, including Abigail Smith Ludwig, Mims Creed Goza, Giulia Dalbec-Matthews, Agnes Babb, Haley Sprankle, Grace Fanning, Lindsay Brasington, Cortlin Collins, Shelby Sessler, Kaitlyn Rainwater, Kathy Hartzog, Kate-Noel Kloppenbourg, Doug Gleason, Kyle L. Collins, Addie Taylor, Linda Posey, Laurel Posey, LeAndra Ellis-Gaston, Sirena Dib, Victoria Wilson, Lauren Veselak and Claire Sparks.  And yes, that's the majority of the cast members from just about every musical produced at Town and/or anywhere else over the least year or two.  There may be a surprise drop-in by religious leader "Rev. Cocoa,” and there's sure to be appearances by backup dancers "The Cocoa Puffs" and "The Razzle Dazzles."

Accompaniment for select numbers will be by ad-hoc house band Andy  "Picante" Wells and The Jalapenos.  (Wells accompanied Ludwig and Chip Collins on some lovely numbers from Chicago at the recent Jasper release party at the Arcade in January, so we're anticipating a whole lotta ivory-tickling goin' on.  Master and Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening are co-conspirators Frank Thompson (the smarmiest and most emcee-worthy of the Forever Plaid cast, who graciously arranged for his Chicago cast to perform at the Arcade event) and Shannon Willis Scruggs.  Yep, "Forever" Patsy Cline herself, although she first warmed our hearts a lifetime ago on the Town Theatre stage as Dainty June, singing the "Moo Cow Song" in Gypsy. (That close runner-up finish in the Miss South Carolina pageant a few years back didn't  hurt either.)  Featured choreography is by Christy Shealy Mills and Kaitlyn Rainwater.

Then batten down the hatches, clear the decks, bar the doors and lock up your impressionable youngsters, as CHAUNTEL DEMETRIUS BLAND, AKA ”SWEET HOT COCOA” gets ready to rumble in THE MAIN EVENT with BROADWAY BOBBY CRAFT, in a dance-off to end all dance-offs!  Winner gets bragging rights and all associated benefits attached thereunto and herewith.  Who will come out on top?  (Well, actually the new Town Theatre roof will, so it's all good. )

Don't miss this epic battle of the ages, when the sublime meets the ridiculous, and When the Cocoa Meets the Craft, this Saturday, Feb. 25th, 8:30 PM at Town Theatre.


-- August Krickel is the Theatre Editor for

Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts

Read more from August at

Welcome August Krickel, Jasper's New Theatre Editor

Jasper is delighted to announce that local theatre arts authority August Krickel has agreed to take a position at the helm of our fare ship as our new Theatre Editor!

August began writing for Jasper from the very beginning, first crafting a detailed look at the history of Jim and Kay Thigpen's time at Trustus Theatre in issue 1 and, in issue 2, profiling local stage star Bobby Craft and joining the gang as a staff writer.

By issue 3, August had his hands in the making of the magazine as much as every other editor, logging in the word count to prove it. His cover story on Tish Lowe garnered praise from unlikely corners of the arts community, and his articles on the Arcade Mall, NiA Theatre Troupe, and his short Fancies piece on Workshop Theatre's practice space are indicative of August's familiarity with the intricacies of the Columbia theatre arts community.

A comfortable blogger, August holds the record for post views with his blog on Memorable Theatre Moments from 2011, posted on January 10th, 2012. A fair, informed, and grounded reviewer, August frequently reviews theatre performances for Jasper, as well as  Onstage Columbia.

Often seen with a stack of Jasper's in his arms, ready to spread the ever growing and exciting news of Columbia arts, August has become indispensable to the Jasper crew, demonstrating a kind of devotion to his craft and dedication to his subject matter that makes him not only a pleasure to work with, but a beloved member of the Jasper family.

Welcome, August. Jasper will be a better magazine because of you and your good work.