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The Secret Life of Bees

From 179 member  reviews
Members say: Great singing, Absorbing, Entertaining, Relevant, Great acting

About the show

Based on the best-selling novel by Sue Monk Kidd, Atlantic's world premiere musical comes from the creative team that brought you "Sweat," "Spring Awakening," "Working," and "Fun Home." More…

South Carolina, 1964. Lily Owens, a restless white teenager, struggles with her merciless father and the haunting memory of her mother’s death. When Rosaleen, her black caregiver, is beaten and jailed for asserting her right to vote, Lily’s rebellious spirit is ignited. She and Rosaleen escape on an adventure where they are taken in by a trio of black beekeeping sisters. While Lily tries to unlock the secrets of her past, she and Rosaleen find solace in the mesmerizing world of bees and spirituality in this extraordinary tale of awakening, fellowship, and healing. 

Member Reviews (179)


Great singing, Absorbing, Entertaining, Relevant, Great acting
Avg Score

Intense, Long, Relevant, Great singing, Absorbing

See it if you like dark subj matter musicals. Here, trauma pervades, altho moments of joy. Talented cast belts out gd songs (music/lyrics). Barebones.

Don't see it if you need a big prodn or dislike civil rts. Or you dislike idol worship of Mary statue, drenched in honey. Or you dislike heavy mic'ing.

Also This show is very likable (I liked it more than The Color Purple, wh h... Read more Read less

Edgy, Resonant, Fluffy, Great acting, Ambitious

See it if You want a show that has god acting with nice singing. Costumes were terrific. If you like smaller staged productions.

Don't see it if If you want a consistent, good book. If you would rather see a bigger production with a really great songs.

Powerful, Delightful, Intelligent, Great singing

See it if You want to see a talented cast perform at a high level in a new show. Music was beautiful and varied. Staging simple yet effective.

Don't see it if You prefer elaborate musicals.

Melodramatic, Great music, Absorbing, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if Powerful harmonic driving vocals with original soul, R&B, and rock/pop tunes. Large onstage band. Melodramatic civil rights story.

Don't see it if You want the story to be more believable. I guess we can assume the Virgin Mary statue dripping with honey came to the rescue.

Maudlin, Resonant, Contrived, Great singing, Ambitious

See it if u want to see the powerhouse team of Sheik, Nottage, Gold & LaChanze turn Kidd's novel into a disarming, feel-good (!) Civil Rights musical.

Don't see it if you expect the heft, depth & gravitas that the subject matter would suggest; u don't fancy a sugar-coated, honey-sweet musical about racism.

Also Act II is stronger than the mostly humorless & charmless Act I, but de... Read more Read less

Great singing, Resonant, Thought-provoking, Slow, Disappointing

See it if Ravishing score by Sheik & Birkenhead dominates this cult novel adapt Gold's simple direction & lush production values enhance gifted cast

Don't see it if It's Nottage's adapt that deflates the musical After a slow exposition, a fragmentation settles in w/drama bouncing in different directions

Gorgeous musical tone poem & the chance to hear glorious lachanze; but underlying story is far-fetched

See it if ethereal evocation of utopian cult of black women beekeepers; hypnotic music performed by troupe of super-talented singers

Don't see it if meh fairy tale: "magic negroes" come 2 aid of white girl fleeing abusive father; civil rts incidents add little; songs need more variety

Resonant, Important, Great writing, Great singing, Great acting

See it if you’re interested in a poignant show about race, or are looking for a good cry or to have your spirit lifted. The performances are great!

Don't see it if you’re looking for escapist entertainment; you’d rather watch something light that doesn’t remind you of our country’s recent dark history.

Terrible story (blame the book!), Quirky, Thought-provoking, Great singing

See it if Excellent singing. The acting was good. I loved the costumes. Some of the dresses were made in such beautiful fabrics.

Don't see it if You don’t like barebones musicals. Story hard to follow if you hadn’t read the book. Or you could follow it, but you’d be missing a lot!

Also You loved the book and want to see it as a musical. Although having ju... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Great staging, Great acting, Great singing, Absorbing

See it if You want to see a great musical rendition of the bestseller about the summer of 1964 in 2 small towns in South Carolina. Civil rights theme.

Don't see it if You expect an elaborate musical with lots of choreography. All musicians are interwoven onstage. Heavy civil rights abuses are upsetting.

Also Actors are outstanding. Amazing voices are led by the Tony winning sta... Read more Read less

Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great staging, Great singing, Absorbing

See it if you want a show that has incredible talent but also has something very important to say.Sometimes we forget how recent segregation was.

Don't see it if you ... I can't think of a reason NOT to see it.It is a tad too long. I would cut a bit off of each song. But that's my only criticism. Go!

Romantic, Cliched, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you enjoy entertaining theater with a great cast and good songs.

Don't see it if you don't like feel good stories with predictable characters.

Moving, Great writing, Relevant, Great singing, Ambitious

See it if you want to experience a really great night of theater. The cast is terrific and the score is strong.

Don't see it if you hate musical theater?

A deep well of feelings beneath spare set design, Spiritually-engaged, Sometimes too fast-paced, lacking some of the novel’s soul, Excellent music and singing, Inspiring

See it if a fan of Susan Monk Kidd’s novel or works that contain a spiritual element; you prefer gorgeous singing accompanied by simply-done staging.

Don't see it if you're expecting a very deep interpretation of Kidd’s work, uninterested in Southern racial and spiritual tales, or need flashiness.

Also The Secret Life of Bees hums with the kind of soulful, magnificent sin... Read more Read less

Cliched, Great singing

See it if A hive of intelligent, giving Black women heals an abused white girl. The Queen Bee's (LaChanze) singing is healing for audience, too. ❤️

Don't see it if 2001 novel didn't age well: Magical Negro/Black girl magic saves white girl protagonist, The Help-ish, she Huck Finns her Black servant.

Also Diversity: almost all Black female cast, but the young white, blonde f... Read more Read less

It's aint the second coming of the color purple, Slow, Ambitious

See it if new black theater stories interest you.

Don't see it if you thought you were coming to see a new musical because what you are getting is a PLAY with some really forgettable Duncan Sheik music

Great writing, Great singing, Great acting, Absorbing, Entertaining

See it if A powerful musical about love, domestic abuse, racial injustice, and spirituality. Wonderful book, great lyrics and melodies. Cast excels.

Don't see it if Scenes of abuse, racial prejudice, are difficult for you to watch.

Must see, Riveting, Great staging, Great singing, Great writing

See it if you want to see another wonderful show by the incredible Lynn Nottage, It is wise, powerful, though-provoking, Great music & singing, too!

Don't see it if Can't think of any reason not to see it!

Resonant, Intense, Great acting, Great singing, Absorbing

See it if You want to see a musical that is both dark and light. You want to hear and see some beautiful music played by a fantastic band.

Don't see it if You have a low tolerance for plays and musicals that tend to telegraph the punch, this one goes where you think it does.

Also "The day that I discovered her, I was totally captivated by...the powe... Read more Read less

Emotional, Great acting, Must see, Great singing, Enchanting

See it if you want to see an incredible production that pulls at your heart strings and has an incredible score. The cast is superb. A MUST SEE!!!

Don't see it if you not want to go through the emotions of a show about the civil rights movement.

Entertaining, Disappointing, Great writing, Great singing, Ambitious

See it if You love Lynn Nottage, Duncan Sheik, the novel, or LaChanze. It’s an excellent production. Nottage’s book was spectacular, Sheik’s score ok.

Don't see it if You’re looking for the book and score to come together into something mesmerizing. Very watchable—my husband was crying at the end.

Entertaining, Great staging, Refreshing, Riveting, Great singing

See it if you like a good story with superb vocal talent, good songs, and excellent on stage musicians

Don't see it if you are upset by prejudices involving black/white relationships that still exist in certain areas of the country;

Relevant, Intelligent, Great singing, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you want to see a well-acted interpretation of a highly regarded piece of literature.

Don't see it if you want a more action-driven or elaborately staged musical. This is a fairly simply - yet beautifully - staged production.

Enchanting, Cliched, Refreshing, Great singing, Absorbing

See it if you want to see a well-put-together musical of this scale with a terrific cast and hear the best Duncan Sheik score since Spring Awakening.

Don't see it if you can't tolerate another civil rights narrative centered on the journey of a white protagonist.

Cliched, Ambitious, Great singing

See it if You like strong music and southern period pieces.

Don't see it if Show that takes itself too seriously. Levity helps people.

June 13th, 2019
"The problem isn’t the added songs. The score, by Duncan Sheik and Susan Birkenhead, is in fact quite beautiful...What’s more, the songs are sung gorgeously by a cast that’s equally powerful in solo numbers and ensembles. The problem is what the songs are added to, and how much had to be cut to m...
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June 13th, 2019
"'The Secret Life of Bees' turns out to be all buzz and no sting...It leaves some of the city’s best voices without much to sing about...Their vocals are glorious but the show doesn’t seem to know what story it is telling, or how to tell it...One gets the sense that everyone involved is trying to...
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June 13th, 2019
"Musical theater brings out all that’s effective about 'The Secret Life of Bees' while dexterously downplaying its less convincing elements...It’s always heartening to encounter a production that truly feels like a fruitful collaboration and whose various team members are all joyfully pulling the...
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June 13th, 2019
"Some of the most gorgeous female-forward musical storytelling seen on a New York stage in some time...The show features a book by two-time Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage, a warm, expansively melodic score by Duncan Sheik, descriptive lyrics by Broadway veteran Susan Birkenhead and sensitive direct...
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Cast & Creatives (5)