1960s musical 'Beehive' is the gift that keeps on giving to OU drama students

Spring 2020

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Great Lakes Theatre production of "Beehive." Photo by Roger Mastroianni.

OU junior Gabbie David says that the Larry Gallagher School of Drama Scholarship has made her OU education possible. Photo courtesy Emil Jraissati, Dipped in Gold Photography
Great Lakes Theatre production of "Beehive." Photo by Roger Mastroianni.

OU junior Gabbie David says that the Larry Gallagher School of Drama Scholarship has made her OU education possible. Photo courtesy Emil Jraissati, Dipped in Gold Photography
A musical revue that leaves its audiences dancing in the aisles helps more than a dozen University of Oklahoma Helmerich School of Drama students reach for their dreams each year.

Larry Gallagher studied fine arts at OU from 1965 to 1967 and was the creator and director of “Beehive: The 1960s Musical.” When the Duncan, Okla., native died in 1988, he made an estate gift of royalties from the musical to the OU Foundation. To date, “Beehive” has produced more than $426,000 in OU scholarships funds.

“Beehive” celebrates powerful female voices of the 1960s. The musical premiered off-Broadway in 1986, and its original cast featured such performers as Tony Award winner Adriane Lenox, who starred as Denise Oher in the film “The Blind Side,” and Jasmine Guy, who went on to roles in Spike Lee’s film “School Daze” and the TV series “A Different World.”

OU Helmerich School of Drama Director Seth Gordon came to OU in 2019 from the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Purely by chance, that theater had produced “Beehive” several years earlier.

“It’s what they refer to as a ‘jukebox musical,’ and was a way to sing all these terrific ‘girl band’ songs from the ’60s,” said Gordon, who also recalls briefly meeting Larry Gallagher early in his career while working in New York City. “Our St. Louis theater of about 750 people was filled every night with sophisticated adults jumping up and down in the aisles, acting like kids.”

Thanks to “Beehive,” the Larry Gallagher School of Drama Scholarship is awarded to between 15 and 20 OU students each year, Gordon said.
“Having a ceiling over your head and food in your stomach is not a small matter,” he said, explaining that the Gallagher scholarship allows students to work fewer hours and focus on academics.

“That is a huge boon in a program where the first class of each day starts early in the morning and rehearsals tend to end after 10 p.m. every night. Then, rehearsals begin for all those other things students do – like a piece for a directing class or something that you’ve agreed to be in for a friend.

“It’s amazing to me that I will be thinking, ‘Wow, that was a really long day at work, I just spent 13 hours at school,’ and the building is still full of activity. Our program is something students desperately want to do. Working a few hours less at an outside job because of a scholarship makes a huge difference in their ability to excel.”

Gabbie David, a sophomore from Carrollton, Texas, has received the Gallagher scholarship for two years. The aspiring actress and playwright is a first-generation student whose parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines.

“Navigating college was a hard process for all of us,” she said. “We worried about how I would pay for college. Getting the scholarship definitely provided a little bit of cushion for my family.”

David, who also receives an OU Club of Dallas scholarship and an academic award from OU, works as co-director of recruitment for the School of Drama and serves as a nanny to local families on the side. She hopes one day to manage a theater company and represent Asian-American arts.

“I’ve received an amazing skill set at OU,” she said. “This is a huge opportunity for my family. But without scholarships, I don’t think I would be finishing school. It made my OU years possible.”