The Secret Life Of Bees is a musical taste of honey – review

The Secret Life Of Bees is a musical taste of honey – review


Based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd, Lynn Nottage’s musical is a thing of wonder. Bathed in the ochre glow of Neil Austin’s lighting, the stage is suffused with heat and sunshine throughout the performance.

Bullied by her widowed father T-Ray (Mark Meadows), Lily (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) runs away with her best friend Rosaleen (Abiona Omonua) to seek safety in the all-female honey-producing haven that is depicted in a photo left by her dead mother.

The Mississippi Delta of 1969 is very far from a safe place for people of colour and the aptly named Lily is regarded with suspicion by the Boatright sisters – May (Danielle Fiamanya), June (Ava Brennan) and August (Rachel John) – who run the honey business.

Set against an historical backdrop involving the disappearance of three young Civil Rights activists, it is a shining example of how to turn a dramatic story (filmed in 2008 and starring Alicia Keyes and Queen Latifah) into a musical.

The songs composed by Duncan Sheik (music) and Susan Birkenhead (lyrics) are outstanding in their quality, authenticity and diversity.

The luscious River Of Melting Sun sets the scene, while Sign My Name is a soulful belter about Black voting rights.

Gospel meets rock in Tek A Hol Of My Sol and Our Lady Of Chains.

The fabulous female voices dominate, though Lily’s putative boyfriend Neil (Tarinn Callender) has his moment with the blistering horn-driven Stax soul number 55 Fairlane. A jewel of a musical.

  •  The Secret Life of Bees,  Almeida Theatre until May 27 Tickets: 020 7359 4404

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