BWW Review: THE BIKINIS at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre
On Friday, February 15, I had the pleasure of seeing the opening performance of yet another phenomenal production at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin, CT, a juke box musical called THE BIKINIS, which is written by Ray Roderick and James Hindman and features classic songs from the 1960s and 1970s. Director Kris McMurray continues to bring the best out in his first-rate cast members, this time with four incredibly talented actresses, three of whom are brand new to the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre. I hope to see all four of them again, in future productions. Their acting and singing fit in wonderfully with the first-rate quality we consistently experience at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre.
The set, designed by James J Moran, is spectacular, depicting an area on a beach with cabanas on both sides, and a picket fence in the back with surfboards and Christmas tree lights behind it, truly creating the nighttime beach party vibe. The cabanas serve as places for entrances and exits as well as for acquiring props. Special effects are amazing, including moments with psychedelic lights and a simulated thunder and lightening storm that sounded and looked authentic. The audience for the show doubles as the audience for the show within the show, which is a reunion concert on December 31, 1999, of the fictional four member girl group known as the Bikinis.
It appears that the design of this girl group is somewhat influenced by The Beach Boys in that they are associated with the beach, from the 1960s, and the group contains siblings, a cousin, and a friend, the difference being that this is an all female group with two sisters, as opposed to an all male group with three brothers.
The talented live band is led by musical director TJ Thompson on keyboards with Jamie Sherwood on guitar and Tim Urso on drums. The musicians bring incredible energy at the perfect speed and volume to accompany the wonderful singing on stage.
The singing harmonies and on-stage chemistry between the four actresses are incredibly tight, as if they had been singing and acting together for years. They play incredibly well off each other, lending believability to all four characters, as individuals, and as a group. From the opening number, "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)" it is clear that the actresses have mastered the exact volume to sing in such a way that they are all heard, without drowning each other out, whether singing lead or back-up. The precision of their synchronized choreography is stellar, reflecting hard work, cooperation, and strong dance skills. Most importantly, all four actresses look like they are having a great time, as is the entire audience.
Maria Soaft shines in the role of Jodi, who comes across as the leader, as the oldest sister. from Paramus, NJ, typically standing stage right. Erin Liddell excels in the role of Annie, Jodi's younger sister, who typically stands stage left. The sisters disagree as to whether the Sandy Shores Mobile Home Beach Resort should be sold at a cost of $250,000 per lot to developers who wanted to put up condos, or whether the sentimental value of the area was worth preserving as is. Both sisters are united in performing the reunion concert to raise money to help benefit the residents of the area, but the sisters have conflicting ideas as to what is best for the residents. Jodi, a divorced lawyer, supports the impending sale, while Annie, a bachelorette, opposes it. The decision to sell or not sell would be decided by the majority vote from the residents. From an audience perspective, it is a tough call which side to take on the issue.
Erica Whitfield brilliantly portrays Barbara, the group member who is a friend from Staten Island. One of the highlights is her strong singing and stage presence on "Secret Agent Man," in character of a fictional character Barbara was portraying during a segment of the show that depicts a show within the show, within the show, a fascinating concept I have never seen before.
Emily Gray is wonderful as Karla, the group member who is the cousin of Jodi and Annie, and who has been happily married for twenty years. Emily Gray brings a particularly contagious positive energy to her character that radiates from the stage out to the audience. She sings lead on "Remember (Walking In the Sand)," which is a musical highlight, and, in my experience, seems to be the most frequently performed song in jukebox musicals.
Some other musical highlights include strong harmonies on "Incense and Peppermints," and the performance of an abbreviated version of "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)." The show also contains two original songs, "In My Bikini," and "Sandy Shores," which add to the quality and positive feel of the show.
Will the property be sold? Will the sisters come to an agreement on the issue? Will Barbara and Karla take sides? If so, will they be on the same side, and whose side will it be? Come to the show to find out!
I highly recommend THE BIKINIS which is scheduled to continue to run at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin, CT, every Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 P.M. through March 16, 2019. For tickets, please call the box office at 860-829-1248.