Welcome! This is your first free article. Get more free articles when you sign up with your email.

The Secret Life of Bees

“Delicate and powerful”
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

Adapted from Sue Monk Kidd’s novel, The Secret Life of Bees is a coming-of-age story that portrays African-American faith and community with affecting emotional sweep. Written by Lynn Nottage (whose play Sweat just opened in the West End) with music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, it addresses injustice in the segregated American South in the 1960s.

While some dramatic moments are rushed or too neatly tied-up – there is a gloopy interracial teenage romance subplot – the musical still enchants through delicately rendered performances and powerful song and dance.

White teenager Lily (Elizabeth Teeter) is close with Rosaleen (Saycon Sengbloh), the African-American young woman who works for Lily’s abusive father. After Rosaleen is beaten and jailed for trying to vote, the girls flee, taking shelter with three sisters, August (LaChanze), June (Eisa Davis), and May (Anastacia McCleskey), who knew Lily’s late mother. The sisters’ kindness and guidance helps them heal.

All three sisters are strongly performed – LaChanze exudes serenity, Davis reveals the pain behind her character’s aloofness – while Sengbloh visibly transforms under the sisters’ influence. Teeter’s performance is more surface-skimming however, expressing Lily’s skittishness, but little more.

Director Sam Gold’s minimalist production sets the scene with wisps of culturally specific music and dance. Hand-held wire puppets create the illusion of swirling bees.

Musically it’s powerful too. The style of the songs varies from traditional musical theatre, to soul, gospel and black spirituals. Lyrics reference the history of African American struggle. Through rhythmic movements and hand-drumming, the choreography conjures ancestral associations – giving release to past and present pain.

Spring Awakening composer Duncan Sheik: ‘I wanted to write a score you would have on your iPod’


Related to this Review

BeetlejuiceBeetlejuice

Production Details
Production nameThe Secret Life of Bees
VenueLinda Gross Theater
LocationNew York
StartsMay 12, 2019
EndsJuly 17, 2019
Running time2hrs 20mins
ComposerDuncan Sheik
Book writerLynn Nottage
LyricistSusan Birkenhead
DirectorSam Gold
Musical directorJason Hart
ChoreographerChris Walker
Set designerMimi Lien
Costume designerDede Ayite
Lighting designerJane Cox
Sound designerDan Moses Schreier
CastAnastacia Mccleskey, Eisa Davis, Elizabeth Teeter, Joe Cassidy, Lachanze ., Matt Deangelis, Romelda Teron Benjamin, Saycon Sengbloh, Vita E Cleveland
Production managerSm Payson
ProducerAtlantic Theater Company
VerdictComing-of-age musical with a book by Lynn Nottage that honours the love, anger, and history of African-American women
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn
Add New Comment
You must be logged in to comment.
Nicole Serratore

Nicole Serratore

Nicole Serratore

Nicole Serratore

Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue

Invest in The Stage today with a subscription starting at just £3.98
The Stage
© Copyright The Stage Media Company Limited 2020
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
Linked In
Pinterest
YouTube