The Bikinis Suits Up for Summer Fun at Long Wharf Theatre
By Amy J. Barry
The Bikinis fits the bill for light-hearted musical revues popularly staged in the summer. Everything clicks into place and moves fluidly along in this clever and engaging production, presented by Long Wharf Theatre along with Miracle Or 2 Productions. The show was created and written by Ray Roderick and James Hindman, directed and choreographed by Roderick, with music arrangements by Joseph Baker. Goodspeed Musicals originally produced it.
The time is 1999 and the place is New Jersey’s Sandy Shores Mobile Home Beach Resort NOT trailer park as is frequently pointed out by the four members of the ’60s all girl band that was a one-hit wonder on the Jersey shore with their with their one vinyl 45. Now middle-aged women, they are reuniting to give a performance to raise money to keep a developer from coming in and leveling the park to build fancy new homes.
The ensemble of top-notch comic actors and singers consists of Valerie Fagan as Annie, Regina Levert as Barbara, Karyn Quakenbush as Karla, and Lori Hammel as Jodi.
The women may not be able to fit into their bikinis anymore but their voices certainly haven’t suffered the ravages of time. The cast’s extremely pleasing vocal solos and harmonies are well timed and delivered.
The selection of songs reflects a female’s perspective. Act I features tunes from the “innocent” early 60s like the theme song, “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” “Where the Boys Are,” “Be My Baby,”Chapel of Love”...up to songs reflecting the beginning of women’s liberation like “These Boots Are Made For Walkin.”
Act II is set in 1968, the summer of love, and reflect the Vietnam War, the advent of hippies, and disco.
“Our music was changing. Everything was,” they say.
“Dedicated to the One I Love” is sung as a beautiful ballad to the boys in Vietnam. Other songs that mirror their growing independence as women include “I’m Every Woman,” and “I Will Survive” mixed in with the romantic lament, “When Will I Be Loved,” and the upbeat “It’s Raining Men.”
As the ’70s approached the girls were going in different directions with their careers and lives and had less time to rehearse, and, they noted, “We loved hippies, but they did a real number on girl bands. We were becoming extinct.”
The spirit of the ‘60s and ’70s and all its socio/political changes is nicely captured in this musical ode to baby boomers youth with both its bittersweet moments and comic relief.
Although most of the tunes are fresh new arrangements of old songs by Baker, there are several new songs in the mix, such as the heartfelt “In My Bikini” and “Sandy Shores.”
Lots of colorful costume changes and energetic dance moves keep visual interest on stage despite an unchanging basic beach scene. A talented band plays live behind the girl singers.
Performances of The Bikinis continue through July 27 at Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven. For tickets, call the box office at 203-787-4282 or online www.longwharf.org
This review appears in Shore Publishing community weeklies, and online at zip06.com and theday.com.