Nostalgia rules the day in the Oklahoma City debut of “The Bikinis,” a new musical by Ray Roderick and James Hindman.
The show is set in 1999 at the 30-year reunion of The Bikinis, a New Jersey-based girl group that failed to break into the national scene after recording one hit single.
Inspired by true events, the reunion show serves as a fundraiser for the fictional Sandy Shores RV Resort on Florida’s Gold Coast, with proceeds going toward hiring a lawyer in the wake of a real estate developer’s per resident offer of $1,000,000 for their land. Depending on the residents’ vote to stay or go, the lawyer either will be used to fend off the developers or try to get even more money out of them.
Don’t worry; this isn’t a heavy political piece depicting the battle between a group of underdogs and a greedy corporation. Like the rest of the story, the reunion is just an excuse for an almost-was cover band to sing a bunch of period classics. (To be fair, there are a few original songs, most of which aren’t awful.)They create magic during some of the songs.
Director Billie Thrash and a likable cast that includes Elin Bhaird, Deb Goff-Roberts, Paula Parkhurst and Jackie Smola do their best to bring the show to life. They create magic during some of the songs they obviously worked very hard on, but a lot of the interstitial material falls flat, especially in terms of groaner humor.
So much of that is the fault of the script, but I wish more effort had gone into better defining the characters’ individual personalities and the conflicts between them. There is some engaging backstory and more character-defining moments in Act 2, but it comes a little too late in a piece that starts so generic and saccharine-sweet.
The show worked best during an extended segment in which the ladies described their own take on the beach movie, replete with guest stars such as Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello and Elvis Presley — all played by the women. A quick pace, frequent costumes changes, fun props and playful characterizations make this one of the standout sections where the show feels like it’s firing on all cylinders.
As a musical revue, “Bikinis” isn’t bad, featuring perhaps too many great songs (nearly 40 in all), including “Heat Wave,” “Under the Boardwalk,” and “I Will Survive.” All are executed with commendable precision by the show band, The Big Kahunas, under the direction of keyboardist Tim Goff, with David Hester on drums, Jason Hunt on guitar and Tim Good on bass.
Although eager to please, the weak script keeps me from recommending “Bikinis” on its own merits as an original piece, but it is a pleasant enough diversion as a pop-music retrospective.