Pillow Talking’s Review of THE BIKINIS
Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking are pleased to present the following review of THE BIKINIS at Long Wharf Theatre
Through July 31st
For more information and tickets
I had no idea what to expect from The Bikinis – a retro beach party, but I certainly hoped it wasn’t one of those shows which encourage attending in costume. While I’ve donned plenty of those scanty numbers in my time, I usually opt for a little less skin baring these days. But I wasn’t the only one who felt that way – in fact, right at the outset, the four cast members from a bygone-but-not-forgotten all-girl act from the sixties let us know that they weren’t about to don their bikinis again either. Whew…I was saved and could just sit back and enjoy the myriad songs which lapped at the audience like big, beautiful waves at the seashore.
The Bikinis was created and written by Ray Roderick and James Hindman, with musical arrangements by Joseph Baker, additional music and lyrics by Baker and Roderick, and directed and choreographed by Roderick. With a simple stage consisting of a picket fence where striped towels and various costume elements hang, behind which sit four musicians, we are introduced to four former Jersey Shore boardwalk songbirds who have come together to save their beloved trailer park, excuse me, er…Sandy Shores Mobile Home Beach Resort. The quartet regales one another and the audience with tales about the genesis of their group, THE BIKINIS, in the summer of 1964, and details of what’s been happening in their lives up until their current reunion 20 years after the group dissolved. Act One is mainly about their humble beginnings from when they won the Belmar Beach Talent Contest (wearing their bikinis, of course), to boys, to later hearing their song on the radio blasting across the Jersey sand, to boys, and finally to the challenges of making enough money for a 45 and of creating the “B side” for it. Act Two touches upon musical as well as social change, war, and their own personal trajectories. All in all, these four exuberant beauties had been living the dream!
The foursome is comprised of two sisters (who couldn’t be more different) Jodi and Annie, their outspoken cousin Karla, and their BFF Barbara; together they surfed the glorious party wave of beach band stardom for 14 years. The Bikinis is essentially a musical revue broken up with conversation, and consists of over 30 tunes, which together are like a historical song list from the innocence of teeny bopper sixties (“It’s in His Kiss,” “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” “Under the Boardwalk”), to psychedelic and socially relevant songs as the girls moved forward into the seventies (“Time of the Season,” “Incense and Peppermints”), and finally as they were on the cusp of the disco era (“Last Dance,” “It’s Raining Men”). Then suddenly fast forward to the millennium – the times had changed and so did the girls – but when the family trailer and the mobile home park was at risk for a buyout, they reunited in song to raise money to save it.
This nostalgic blast from the past is rife with great banter and “girls’ night” camaraderie. They bust right through the fourth wall, therefore the whole thing just feels like a party and the audience is part of it. You feel as if you’re just hanging out with new friends and old, particularly Bob and Betty, fictional characters with whom The Bikinis pretend to interact – during our performance, it was an obliging older couple who just happened to be sitting very close to the action. With mainly on-stage wardrobe changes, it was non-stop song and dance and there were plenty of moments for each of them to shine as well as for them to sing in sweet harmony. Older sister Jodi (a terrific Lori Hammel) is the dissenting opinion regarding the sale of the motor home. The obvious leader of the group and a straight-arrow lawyer, she commands the stage but in the best of big-sisterly ways. Annie (played to perfection by Natalie Toro) is spunky and not about to be in big sis’ shadow. Karyn Quackenbush is hysterical without being over-the-top as cousin Karla; and Barbara, played by Marinda Anderson is the great friend to the three as well as a powerhouse singer.
While much of the credit must be given to the leads for the strength and spirit of this production, the musicians (who stay on stage the whole time and with whom the ladies occasionally interact) were stellar. Kudos to Dan Pardo for musical direction and keys; Brandon Sturiale also for keys; Tim Maynard for guitar; and David Edricks for drums. A hand also to Jamie Roderick as lighting designer, James Hindman as production stage manager, Joseph Hayward as assistant director/stage manager, and Joseph Baker as musical supervisor, as well as the modest set with carpentry by Amelia PIzzoferrato and wardrobe by Samantha Abbott.
The Bikinis is a great summertime romp and a terrific way to escape the heat for a few hours, grab a signature lobby drink “The Two Piece,” and either chair dance or get your boogie on in the aisles (like the two ladies sitting behind me who couldn’t control themselves the entire time). And as I said at the outset, swim suits aren’t required – but fun is!
“I come here to tell you that these beach bums is bums.” — Eric Von Zipper
Some people – maybe many – might not recognize that quote or that speaker. But the image of comedian and actor Harvey Lembeck liveried in a motorcycle jacket as the leader of the Rat Pack motorcycle gang in the string of Bikini Beach movies is emblazoned in my memory. I was a child of the sixties and seventies. While kids my age were rocking out to the British invasion, I was a beach party fanatic, dancing to the beat of a different drummer and following the likes of Elvis through his thirty-some odd films and Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in their Bikini Beach franchise.
So when the characters in The Bikinis mentioned Eric Von Zipper and one of my all-time favorite sandy pics – Beach Blanket Bingo – I felt I was home. Call me sentimental, revoke my American Theatre Critics Association card, but I LOVED the beach movies. While the plots may have been inane, the talent would runneth over with the likes of Paul Lynde, Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Don Rickles, Linda Evans, and guitar maestro Dick Dale.
The Bikinis is a musical tour through the sixties and seventies with a heavy focus on beach party songs. The show was created and written by Ray Roderick and James Hindman, musical arrangements by Joseph Baker with additional music and lyrics by Joseph Baker and Ray Roderick. The plot is slim at best. Four former singers of a 1960s all girl group called The Bikinis reunite in 2000 to perform at a fundraiser in Florida. It seems condominium developers are trying to take over a mobile home park and the group wants to raise money to stop them. Life is definitely stranger than fiction, because apparently the plot was based on a true story vis-à-vis the condos vs. the mobile homes. The plot is merely a vehicle to facilitate and underscore the real stars of the show: the four female singers and the classic music of the sixties and seventies.
The production of The Bikinis we saw at the famous Long Wharf Theatre was directed and choreographed by Ray Roderick and featured the formidable talents of Marinda Anderson (Barbara), Karyn Quackenbush (Karla), Lori Hammel (Jodi), and Natalie Toro (Annie).
The show is pure escapist entertainment and a feast for the senses from start to finish. The songs come in rapid fire succession and I’m proud to say that there wasn’t one I didn’t recognize. The songs were in chronological order and stretched over two decades. Each song represented a link in the country’s musical legacy. While each song was artistically well done, there were some standouts like “Under the Boardwalk,” “Where the Boys Are,” “Mambo Italiano,” “Secret Agent Man,” “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’,” “Lay Down Candles in the Rain,” “Last Dance,” and “I Will Survive.”
Props also must be given to Musical Director Dan Pardo and his band of musicians: Tim Maynard, Brandon Sturiale and David Edricks.
The Bikinis is a terrific show whether or not you are familiar with the tunes. The music will have your heart pumpin’, your feet stompin’ and your hands clappin’. There is no better way to celebrate a piece of this country’s musical heritage than by experiencing the show first hand.
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