Thomas Morrissey, Producing Artistic Director of the ReVision Theatre in Asbury Park, emailed me to ask what I thought of the company’s production of THE BIKINIS. Below is my response/review-
My initial interest in seeing the ReVision Theatre’s world premiere production of THE BIKINIS, presented in the section of the old Casino building at the Ocean Grove/Asbury Park NJ border that once housed a carousel, concerned the venue. The fact that the production showcased the music of my youth, specifically the early 60s, sealed the deal.
I learned of the production from a review in the Asbury Park Press that I read on a midweek visit to the Jersey shore. Upon returning home I booked a ticked for last Sunday evening online.
It was a great performance. It was good to hear all those songs of the 60s and beyond performed live. The 4 BIKINIS themselves (Cheryl Freeman, Annie Golden, Kathy Morath and Karyn Quackenbush – all professional musical theatre veterans) were excellent, both in their solo performances and their group numbers.
The show is in the same mold as off-Broadway’s THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES, which features the music of the 50’s – and just as good.
The actual plot of the musical is really immaterial – just a way to “explain” the context of the performance and to provide some back story filler between songs. The idea chosen is as good as any other option. My only complaint with the plot, which seems to have been shared by other reviewers, is that nobody in their right mind would turn down $1 Million to hang on to a spot in a trailer park (excuse me - mobile home resort). The specific back-story of the BIKINIS group was much more interesting and well-written.
My only other complaint is with the Second Act construction. The First Act was practically perfect – the girls reminiscing about the summers of their high school years, and the progress of the group toward its goal to be on AMERICAN BANDSTAND, in between songs from the period (“It’s In His Kiss”, “Shop Around”, ‘Under the Boardwalk”, ‘Where the Boys Are”, etc). The Second Act was all over the place, going from the “summer of love” to the disco era. While the performances in the Second Act were just as good as those of the First, and again it was good to hear these songs again, it strayed from the basic premise. And why was an original country-western song thrown in among the “covers”. I can understand the two original 60’s-styled songs in the show – the two sides of the group’s demo 45 – but the CW number, while again very good, was out of place.
Perhaps the show should have began in 1962 instead of 1964 and run without an intermission. Or the Second Act could have dealt more with the girls’ college-age years of 1967 through 1971, a period that was pretty much given only minimal representation in the musical, showing the contrast between the music, and the culture, of the two distinct periods.
I was impressed with the layout of the small space available within the “Carousel Building”. The seating was arranged to accommodate a relatively large audience – bigger than I expected, and the stage area was not cramped. It looked to me like a full house on Sunday night. While this site is especially suited for summer performances I would hope that with the right enhancements it could be turned into a year-round venue.
I was not aware until the night of the performance that this was the third summer that ReVision Theatre had done shows just off the Boardwalk at the “Carousel House”. I am truly sorry that I missed the previous productions. But as a new member of ReVision Theatre I will not miss out on future offerings.
Unfortunately the last performance in Asbury Park was yesterday. However it is next scheduled to appear in Long Island and, I expect, will continue to travel thereafter. Keep an eye out for it and see it if it comes to your area.