“Beehive,” a hit musical revue that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend, was no fluke.
Gordon Cantiello has been directing top-notch cabaret in Omaha since the early 1980s, when shows like “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well” and “Side by Side by Sondheim” played in venues like M’s Pub and the French Underground.
Cantiello, then teaching theater at Duchesne Academy, moved to San Diego in 1986 and continues to teach. But he keeps returning to Omaha as a summer cabaret director, this time at The Waiting Room Lounge in Benson.
“Beehive,” which opened at the Howard Street Tavern in July 1992, had the longest continuous run of any stage show in Omaha theatrical history — 220 performances over 10 months. The show features 1960s pop hits by women. Four of the six cast members from 1992 are back for the revival.
“It was the biggest success I’ve ever had,” Cantiello said before a recent rehearsal. “That’s due to the nature of the show. It’s so incredibly well built, and it deals with iconic performers: Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin. I had a feeling for this period.”
Cantiello said he’s always been drawn to the intimacy of cabaret, bringing audiences up close to the actors in an informal environment where they can have a cocktail and something to eat.
“It’s like mini-dinner theater,” he said.
His past hits have included “Suds,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Always ... Patsy Cline,” “Forever Plaid,” “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and more.
Cantiello performed as an actor at the long-defunct Firehouse, Westroads and Upstairs dinner theaters, but not in his own shows. Directing, he said, takes total focus.
“It’s like television,” he said of cabaret. “You can’t do the stage thing, because that’s too big. But you can develop characters in cabaret. There’s usually a story in the song.”
Cantiello treats each song as a monologue, exploring what it’s about and what the actor can bring to that story.
“He makes you go so deep in thought about a song,” said cast member Tiffany White Welchen. “Sometimes he makes us act a song without singing it. He makes you go somewhere that becomes very vulnerable.”
Others from the 1992 show back for the revival are Kathy Tyree, Sue Gillespie Booton and Ginny Sheehan Hermann. Donna Ball and Jean Peterson, hired for a 1996 revival, complete the cast.
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