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The Bikinis

a Musical Comedy
by Ray Roderick and James Hindman

COMPANY : ART Station Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : ART Station Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5307

SHOWING : July 12, 2018 - July 29, 2018



It’s thirty-six years later and the girl group everybody loves is back; with all the sun and fun, and great songs they sang down on the Jersey Boardwalk in 1964, when they won the Belmar Beach Talent Contest in their bikinis. Reminisce and be transported back to a simpler time with favorites like “Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “It’s Raining Men” and more.

Director Karen Beyer
Annie Aretta Baumgartner
Karla Wendy Bennett
Jodi Adena Brumer
Barbara Janelle Lannan
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A Journey through Pop Music
by playgoer
Sunday, July 29, 2018
"The Bikinis" uses a fairly trite storyline to create a jukebox musical tracing female-oriented pop music from 1964 to the year 2000, when the story ostensibly takes place. Four teenagers won a beach singing contest with an impromptu performance in their bikinis in 1964 and formed a pop quartet. The first act traces their career as a singing group, culminating in a "Beach Blanket Bingo" parody; the second act brings them from hippie times up to the current day (2000), when the Sandy Shores Mobile Home Beach Resort faces a vote to determine if the residents will sell out to a developer. It’s a serviceable storyline that provides a framework on which to pin covers of a lot of popular songs from the do-wop period through disco.

There is also some original music. The Bikinis released one 45 in their career, and we get to hear both the A side ("In My Bikini") and the B side ("Sandy Shores"), along with a failed update of the A side music to fit in with later musical trends. The inclusion of these original songs gives the show a bit of weight that a pure jukebox musical wouldn’t have.

That’s not to say that the musical is anything more than mindless fluff. It trades on the familiarity of the songs it uses to maintain audience involvement. Patrick Hutchison’s music direction gets the band/voice balance right, so the show sounds good from beginning to end. There are a lot of harmonies in the songs, but each of the four cast members also gets to sing lead from time to time. Adena Brumer (Jodi) and Janelle Lannan (Barbara) have strong voices that impress in solos, while also blending in nicely in the harmonies. Wendy Bennett (Karla) has a lovely solo voice, but doesn’t blend particularly well in some choral moments, while Aretta Baumgartner (Annie) seems somewhat underpowered in solo moments, while excelling in harmonies.

The physical production is fine. Michael Hidalgo’s set design has the band upstage, behind a platform, with a stair unit stage left. Signs upstage indicate "Sandy Shores" and the year 2000, with additional decorations indicating a Jersey shore location. Direction and choreography by Karen Beyer use the space well, with lots of variety of movement. Kim Basacow’s costumes do a good job of hinting at the bikini-clad past of these now middle-aged women.

The four characters are given distinct personalities. Jodi (Adena Brumer) is a lawyer who has organized the evening, and Ms. Brumer plays her with a bit of reserve that makes her seem a tad colorless in comparison to the others. Her sister Annie (Aretta Baumgartner), on the other hand, is a bit of a spitfire, and Ms. Baumgartner’s joy at being onstage translates directly to audience enjoyment. Their cousin Karla (Wendy Bennett) gets to impersonate the wackiest individuals in the story of their career, and she pulls them off, although they do not seem a particularly natural fit for her. Best friend Barbara from Staten Island (Janelle Lannan) is brash and loud, and Ms. Lannan triumphs in the role, adding spark and sparkle to every line.

The chronological history of female-related pop songs tends to get a bit dry in the second act, but the final disco sequence is a marvel of stagecraft, with sparkly costumes and a laser light show playing over the audience. It brings the plot to a point where the conclusion of the vote can play out with just enough schmaltz and suspense to wrap things up quickly and neatly. A final "encore" (with the cast warning the audience not to leave yet!) puts a button on the show. "The Bikinis" may not rival more successful jukebox musicals, but it’s perfect breezy summer entertainment. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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