Closed 2h 30m
The Secret Life of Bees
Chelsea
84

The Secret Life of Bees NYC Reviews and Tickets

84%
(180 Reviews)
Positive
97%
Mixed
3%
Negative
0%
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."

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Member Reviews (180)

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80
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. Read more

72
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.

Critic Reviews (27)

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 make room for them...The absence of context is not ameliorated by Mr. Gold’s staging, which seems to scrape away all novelistic trappings as if they were ostentatious."
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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 avoid the suggestion that comes through in the show’s final image."
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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 their weight. Nottage and Birkenhead have shaped and sharpened Kidd’s story into a streamlined, sensitive play, and Sheik’s music is rich and rousing."
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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 direction by Sam Gold...To say that this richly expressive dramatic piece is a workshop or two away from realizing its full potential should not be misread as a dismissal."
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June 13th, 2019

"The feeling of empowerment, uplift and solidarity could come across in lesser hands as maudlin, naive or simplistic. But this creative team and ensemble of performers create characters that are fresh, a credible story that is transformative and a spiritual center — enriched by a glorious and haunting score by Duncan Sheik and Susan Birkenhead — that would make even a non-believer sing 'Hallelujah!'"
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June 13th, 2019

"While this handsomely produced and sensitively acted musical—with a book by Lynn Nottage, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, and a rich, soulful score by Duncan Sheik—has flashes of religious ecstasy, young love and forgiveness, mostly it produces too much treacle and too little sting...For all the musical pleasure in Sheik and Birkenhead’s songs, they don’t mesh closely enough with Nottage’s book to feel like they’re pushing the story or emotional terrain along."
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June 13th, 2019

"A beautiful and captivating adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s 2001 coming-of-age novel...Unlike so many other musicals that are adapted without inspiration or invention, 'The Secret Life of Bees' is intently focused around having its characters open up and reveal themselves in songs and dialogue. Even if some of the plotting is choppy, the score and book demonstrate a superb level of craftsmanship, sensitivity to character and dramatic integration."
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June 13th, 2019

"The bestselling novel is getting a powerful and heartfelt adaptation...Director Sam Gold has assembled a bravura multi-talented company — many of them doubling and tripling as musicians, actors, and singers...As much as I was moved by this production and Sheik’s music is his best since 'Spring Awakening,' the book still needs some work. One more draft and I predict it will have a long sweet life."
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June 26th, 2019

“Birkenhead's lyrics are in the best tradition of musical-theatre songwriting...But Nottage hasn't been able to wrest a clear and emotionally binding narrative from it. It proceeds in fits and starts, never delivering the promised emotional knockout punch...Sheik's score has its lively and affecting moments but, without a strong narrative to support, the songs are occupied with side matters and/or lack specificity...A feel-good entertainment that, too often, doesn't fully earn its feelings."
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June 14th, 2019

“There's so much that's wonderful about this gorgeous new musical, including its stellar cast, it would be a shame if the writers don't make the changes the show needs to cohere and soar...Under Gold's clean direction, the first act...unfolds with a charm that's thrilling...The storytelling in the second act, on the other hand, isn't as assured or integrated as the first act...Fingers crossed the production team makes some tweaks to the second act.”
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June 13th, 2019

"If Nottage and Birkenhead offer no radical revisions or revelations in setting her personal journey towards courage and self-acceptance against the struggles of a race that has been oppressed for centuries, their 'Bees' is also very much a story about women, and the deep-seated challenges this group continues to face...'Bees' does end on an uplifting note, though, both literally and figuratively, suggesting that its various heroines will forge on regardless—because the love is worth it."
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June 13th, 2019

"'The Secret Life of Bees,' which is beautifully staged by Sam Gold and gorgeously sung by a talented, big-voiced cast, suffers from a malady all too common to musicals based on teen-focused novels: Its messages are billboarded, its plot points are signposted, and its characters are largely unidimensional. The script, by the multi-Pulitzer-winning Lynn Nottage, ably delivers a warm-hearted story of predictable uplift, but it doesn’t succeed in making 'Bees' dramatically compelling."
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June 27th, 2019

"In her first musical, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage has created an exquisite stage adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's best-selling novel, 'The Secret Life of Bees,' in its world premiere at Atlantic Theater Company. She has been joined by composer Duncan Sheik ('Spring Awakening,' 'American Psycho', 'Alice by Heart') who has written beautiful music and lyricist Birkenhead whose words not only forward the plot (a rare art these days) but also define character."
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June 18th, 2019

“At this stage in its development 'Bees' is still unpolished, a project with potential but currently imperfect. The pieces of the puzzle each present their strengths—the score is especially rich, and the cast is filled with superb vocalists who offer impressive performances in bringing it to life—but could use some smoothing out in how they fit together...But there's great potential here, too...Like its characters, it has room for growth.”
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July 1st, 2019

"Atlantic Theater's new musical buzzes to life to the rhythmic beat of a spot-lit drum. It's a river of gold, this engaging melting sun beginning, with a tapestry of voices melting together like honey fresh from the comb...crafted and tied together with the strong coarse rope of Nottage's glorious book, entwined and complimented by the music of the illustrious Sheik, and lyrics by the poetic Birkenhead..this new musical.. flies high without ever stinging with too much sweetness or discomfort. The pollination is exact, and the flower that rises up, beautiful."
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June 19th, 2019

"A feel-good story...Let’s admit that this is not the best work of the amazing group of theater artists who put it together...It doesn’t solve the implausible contrivances of novelist Sue Monk Kidd’s story nor the manipulative up-with-people sentimentality...Somehow, the songs affected my attitude towards the musical...It made all that was sour feel unimportant next to all that was sweet."
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C
June 13th, 2019

"Let me let you on a little secret about 'The Secret Life of Bees.' Not since its 2006 production of 'Spring Awakening,' has the Atlantic Theater Company presented a musical that looks so ready to make an immediate Broadway transfer. Yes, both shows share the same composer, Duncan Sheik, but it's not just Sheik's melodic, eclectic music (with lyrics by Susan Birkenhead) that scores big."
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June 22nd, 2019

"Provides a musically fulfilling theatre experience supported by a compelling, straightforward narrative that includes parental abuse, religious ecstasy, sexual awakening, romantic fulfillment, and virulent prejudice...It sticks fairly close to the novel but offers a few variations…The book contains many things familiar from multiple other depictions of the Civil Rights years, and it sometimes teeters on the sentimental. Nonetheless, its expert presentation makes it all seem newly minted."
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June 13th, 2019

"Efficiently, Nottage’s book introduces the characters, the circumstances, the obstacles. Sheik and Birkenhead’s luxuriant songs heighten the emotions and intensify the conflict...Nottage, a nicely unsentimental writer, maneuvers the musical away from some cliches, neatly altering a couple of plot points, but stumbles on others...Musically and emotionally, this is a lush and ardent work, sure to come to Broadway...The acting is generally deft and the singing is splendid."
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June 13th, 2019

"Musically, the results are very rich. The songs are mostly strong and are given first-rate presentation by gorgeous voices and strong arrangements. The lyrics by Birkenhead are effective in creating the characters..After intermission it seemed like the creative team realized they had too much material to cover and began a rush to wrap things up that shortchanged important elements...Although I had some reservations about the book, I nevertheless found the production worthwhile."
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June 13th, 2019

"Lynn Nottage wrote the book for the new 'Bees' musical, and like Kidd before her, she’s a master of quick resolutions...'Bees,' the musical, needs to keep the heartaches and the horrors coming even faster than the novel and the movie did. How else can you squeeze 17 songs, plus four reprises, into two hours and 20 minutes?...Gold’s staging for 'Bees' is simultaneously bare and messy."
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June 15th, 2019

“The tasty stew I’d been anticipating turned out to be just soupy...This is yet another standard-issue tale about Magical Negroes whose primary purpose is to help a white protagonist learn about the true meaning of life...Gold’s direction is misguided...The actors try their best to make it all work...But the characters they’re playing are thinly drawn and their actions hard to believe...Nottage tries to inject notes of optimism...But that undercuts some of the drama that the show so badly needs.”
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June 14th, 2019

“Stripped-down musical adaptation of Kidd’s novel...That tale should flow naturally, as it does in Monk’s limpidly written novel. And yet the exposition is often unclear here...The balance between Sheik’s numbers and Nottage’s book skews too heavily towards the latter...And Sheik’s score is muddled. Gold’s directorial interventions also misfire...In an otherwise lacklustre show, the main saving grace is Teeter...Notwithstanding its title, this musical has no great secrets to tell.
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June 17th, 2019

"The music is varied and vibrant, and the cast is good...Some of the plot seems convoluted and just about everything is resolved by the end (a suicide in the original novel doesn’t happen here). Furthermore, the gritty doings don’t always cohere with the bouts of magical realism. But again, it’s about creating mood and turning sadness into honey, and there’s a lot of real beauty here. I give this a Bee plus."
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June 13th, 2019

"Director Sam Gold finds more intense, driven women here, and he is wise to let their astonishing voices carry the production. The music is a well-thought-out mix of gospel-tinged hymns, affirmative anthems and one clever love song to a car...This is one of those shows that sticks with you. Watching it is a little like going to a religious service — it gives you faith that the world could be a better place. For this particular show, that better place just might be Broadway."
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T
June 14th, 2019

“Unfortunately...Gold has staged this musical like a reading with a few chairs and some props...Real moments of intense emotion were bizarrely devoid of any atmosphere whatsoever...I was able to see past the visual disjointedness and be drawn into the emotional core of the material...If the lyrics occasionally seem a tad generic...that feeling gets washed away by these exceptional performances. ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ can be even better than this production.”
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June 14th, 2019

“A coming-of-age story that...Addresses injustice in the segregated American South in the 1960s...While some dramatic moments are rushed or too neatly tied-up – the musical still enchants through delicately rendered performances and powerful song and dance...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.”
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