How Worship Comes Alive in ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Musical

Inspiration springs from the stage in the new show based on Sue Monk Kidd’s best-selling novel.

Posted in , Jul 9, 2019

A scene from the Atlantic Theatre Company's production of 'The Secret Life of Bees'

Ever sit through a show smiling and weeping at the same time?

The Secret Life of Bees was a best-selling novel by the writer Sue Monk Kidd that was made into a movie and is now an off-Broadway musical. It closes at the end of this month, but I’m mighty sure it’ll reappear on many more stages. 

You know I love musicals and can sing songs from a ton of them but I couldn’t hold a candle to the performers who sang in this one. No surprise that the audience immediately rose to its feet at the final curtain. We all wanted to say thanks to the actors.

We cried with them, prayed with them, laughed with them, clapped with them, danced with them and sang–silently to ourselves–with every one of them.

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At the heart of Sue’s novel is a black Madonna honored by some beloved bee-keeping women. It reminded me very much of a black Madonna I saw in a South African monastery not so long ago.

But it’s not always expected in a musical to see and hear so much vibrant worship. I would have happily shouted Amen more than once.

I met Sue for the first time when she taught at a Guideposts Writers Workshop. In fact, she was a winner of the Guideposts Writers Workshop many years ago (I’m not counting and so you don’t have to either). 

She was a nurse back then but what she discovered–what she must have always known–was that she had gifts as a writer, and over the years she has put them to use in ways that must have even surprised her.

Maybe that was part of the reason for my smiles. That words from the page could suddenly become words that were sung (thanks very much to playwright Lynn Nottage, composer Duncan Sheik and lyricist Susan Birkenhead).

There’s an old saying that “to sing is to pray twice.” Thanks, Sue, for letting me know and hear that truth again and again. 

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