BWW Interview: THE BIKINIS Creators, James Hindman and Ray Roderick
Two years ago, the Long Wharf Theatre offered a blast from the past with The Bikinis, James Hindman and Ray Roderick's breezy jukebox revue of '60s and '70s music. The show was loosely based on a true story about senior residents in Florida, who were being pressured to sell their mobile homes to a developer. Instead of a knight in shining armor, a girl group of four women who call themselves The Bikinis come to star in a fundraiser to help the residents pay for their legal fees. This revue, now back at the Long Wharf by popular demand, has a clear narrative that so many people can relate to today, even if they are not retirees who live in a resort.
This is not the first revue by this creative team. Roderick, a performer, writer, director and choreographer of shows such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, A Christmas Carol, I Love A Piano, among others. Hindman, a versatile actor, appeared on and Off-Broadway and national tours in Mary Poppins, City of Angels, 1776, The Scarlet Pimpernell, Dancing at Lughnasa, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, and others.
Director David Armstrong encouraged Hindman to start writing for himself. He didn't wait. He even wrote while he was performing in Mary Poppins. "I had papers stuck in the back of my costumes," he laughs.
"I wrote a show for myself, but I was never in it," says Hindman. His show, Pete 'n Keely was produced and ended up Off-Broadway, starring George Dvorsky and Sally May, and was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award and two Drama Desk Awards.
Sounds like a miracle or two, no? Actually, Hindman and Roderick formed a musical licensing company called Miracle or 2 Productions (www.Miracleor2.com) to create and develop the new American musical. These are smaller productions than the Broadway blockbusters and can be staged just about anywhere. They created the shows The Rat Pack Lounge, Are We There Yet?, I Love New York and Coming to America as well as The Bikinis.
So what makes a revue work well? It takes more than just a compilation of favorite songs. "I think," says Hindman, it's "having that balance of giving the audience what they expect to hear, what they want to hear, in a new and fresh way. Let the audience here the song they know and love, but do it in unexpected way. In The Bikinis, we're giving them a little bit of a story...a context, so the songs help tell our story. That also makes a revue very successful. That little bit of story, the difference between a concert and a successful sort of revue. We have a plot....They also have something to say. Your revue is just a concert if you're doing song after song. If you're trying to say something in a fun way, even if the audience doesn't pick up on it, [you're sending a] subconscious message."
The Bikinis covers four decades, during which there were major social and political changes in the United States, mirroring how many Americans grew up during the second half of the 20th century. The Bikinis were a minor one-hit wonder and they recall the life lessons they each learned over the years. They say that for every A Side, there's a B Side, referring to the 45 record they produced, and that side is often filled with unexpected depth.
The narrative could have been changed. "We did think of other things," says Hindman. They considered basing the show on one of several big bucks deals in New Jersey. But they based the narrative of The Bikinis on a true story in Briney Breezes in Florida and moved it to the Jersey Shore, where they both own homes. "What do we do with the past, the memories?" he asks. "Throw them out and keep moving forward or hold them and cherish them?" The show examines these questions in a light way.
Next up? Roderick and Hindman are working on a few new projects called Loveland Ski Lodge, Stairway to Paradise and are thinking of a Bikinis Christmas Special. Still, The Bikinis will give any other show tough competition. The show is a party, and Roderick, as the director, added fun before and after it started. He suggested some amusing projections, including an image of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart and his shoe phone. The performers tossed pink and white beach balls to the audience. Even without the beach balls, people leave the show happy.
The Bikinis will return to the Long Wharf Theatre from July 13 through July 31. For tickets, call (203) 787-4282 or visit www.longwharf.org.