If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan
“Bikinis” Make Summer Music at Long Wharf
The Long Wharf Theatre is in summer theatre mode with its current offering of “The Bikinis”, a sixties jukebox revue that has been imported to the New Haven venue via Miracle or 2 Productions, Inc. The musical got refined last season at Goodspeed’s second stage and is a perfectly pleasant way to kill a few hours this long, hot summer. Patrons will also note that the air-conditioning is working just fine at Long Wharf.
Created and written by Ray Roderick and James Hindman with direction and choreography by Mr. Roderick, “The Bikinis” follows in a long (very long!) line of jukebox musicals that started with “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and seem to have no end in sight. The current Broadway hit, “Beautiful”, featuring the story and music of Carole King, is the latest example of this phenomenon. It’s easy to see the appeal for producers. The format usually allows for a small cast, minimal set and popular music that will strike a chord among a wide range of people. It’s clearly money in the bank.
“The Bikinis” features four mostly harmonious women tackling a greatest hits medley of the 1960s and early 1970s including “Heat Wave”, “Where the Boys Are” and “Chapel of Love”. It’s nice to revisit the music but, unfortunately, the show stops dead in its tracks to shoehorn in a silly story about saving the mobile home resort that is the setting for the fictional girl group’s big reunion. There were also a number of jokes that fell flat time and again on opening night until you wanted to scream, “Just shut up and sing!”
As for the singers themselves, they have more strength together than as soloists. The harmonies sound terrific on “Be My Baby” and especially on a personal favorite, “Dedicated to the One I Love”. The ladies don’t possess the kind of out-sized personalities, however, that allow them to easily morph into Elvis Presley, Nancy Sinatra or Gloria Gaynor as they attempt to do here. Still, the quartet of Valerie Fagan, Regina Levert, Karyn Quackenbush and Lori Hammel is strong and they seem to be having an awfully good time even as they try too hard at times (trust me, girls, nothing will make those jokes funny!).
In addition to all the popular titles, there are two very serviceable new songs in the show by Roderick and Joseph Baker. “In My Bikini” and “Sandy Shores” each nicely capture the period and the ladies sing them with great feeling. The songs are actually good enough to sit alongside that beloved hit list of classics that make up this undemanding and nostalgic evening of entertainment.
“The Bikinis” continues on Long Wharf’s main stage through Sunday, July 27. For further information or ticket reservations, call the theatre box office at 203.787.4282 or visit: www.longwharf.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the original founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.