By Becky Pritchard
BAR HARBOR — Bee Parks and the Hornets is a self-described “indie pop-rock band” playing at the Criterion Theater twice a week through September 2nd, but their show is not so much a concert as an interactive theatrical event.
Their fast-paced performance spans musical genres from rock, to rap, to blues, to folk. The audience is dancing in the aisles, singing along and batting large yellow beach balls around the concert hall. It’s a successful concert by any standards, especially considering the lead singer is a bee backed up by a band of hornets. About half the audience is under age six.
Welcome to the latest offering by the Barn Arts Collective, the group that brought us “We Run the Ship,” “The Unknown Adventure Crew,” and other original shows for children and adults. The players are Brittany Parker as lead singer Bee Parks, and Carl Ferm, Joey Dupuis, Me’lissa Smith, and Cedar Ellis.
The performers weave lessons into the music, making big points about taking care of the environment, working together, and “beeing” true to oneself. Young audience members also learn how bees pollinate plants and make honey; and learn the definition of “monoculture” (the cultivation of a single crop in a given area).
The lessons are delivered with a catchy beat: this is not a lecture, it’s a dance party. Kids and adults are encouraged to get up and move like bees during the upbeat song “The Waggle.” They learn about pollination by keeping bouncy balls of pollen moving around the room.
Not all the lessons are quite so upbeat. Asking the audience what they think of when they think of bees, the cast also touches on a darker side of the bee/human relationship: stinging.
“It’s how we defend ourselves,” says Parker, explaining that bees are working on figuring out the real threats from the harmless ones.
This leads into the song “Things That Sting:”
Sometimes people try to go and make you mad
Because they feel hurt or they are feeling sad
Just remember not to lose your cool
Take a deep breath or take a dip in the pool
Cuz we don’t need things that sting.
Soon after this, band member Ferm touches on the subject of insecticide, with the song “Poison.” The moral for the young audience is to “always use natural repellant.”
There are guest appearances by other critters: a spider sings about reusing and recycling, and a caterpillar teaches about metamorphosis and comes back in the end as a butterfly. The puppets are voiced by Parker.
Though directed at young audiences, this hour-long high-energy show appealed just as much to adults. The antennae-wearing adults in the back row were dancing throughout the performance, and enjoyed themselves as much (if not more) than the youngsters in the front.
Musically, it is a good show. The band is tight. The vocal harmonies are pleasing.
Bee Parks and the Hornets play at the Criterion each Thursday at 11:00 a.m., and each Sunday at 1:00 p.m. through Memorial Day weekend. The show is sponsored by Galyn’s and Destination Health. Tickets are $7.
“No matter who you are, we sure are glad you’ve arrived,” Bee sings, “and you are welcome in our hive!”