You've heard of the Jersey Boys, who've been immortalized in musical and now movie. Please come and meet the Jersey Girls, a quartet of singers who made a name for themselves on the New Jersey shores decades ago. As the Bikinis, they won a talent contest, much to their own amazement.
In 1964, four B.F. F.’s (best friends forever) on a lark enter a talent contest wearing (you guessed it) bikinis and win the beach boardwalk banners. Two teenage sisters from Paramus, Jodi (Lori Hammel) and Annie (Valerie Fagen), join forces with their impetuous cousin Karla (Karyn Quackenbush) from Philadelphia and their best bud Barbara (Regina Levert) from Staten Island and gather to make their summer fun memorable . The surf is up at Long Wharf Theatre until Sunday, July 27 and you're free to grab your beach towel, suntan lotion and boogie board and sail along for the smooth musical ride.
Believe it or not, the scantily designed swimwear that dangles in two pieces on women and resembles abbreviated underwear was named for the site of a nuclear weapons test site, the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Conceived by French engineer Louis Reard in 1946, it has become heralded as one of the most popular female beachwear ensembles, an $811 million industry annually.
Now it is being reincarnated in an entirely new fashion statement thanks to co-writers Ray Roderick and James Hindman and composer and musical arranger Joe Baker as a beach party musical “The Bikinis.”
With a parade of dozens of favorite tunes like “It’s Raining Men,” “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “It’s in His Kiss,” “I’m Every Woman,” “Under the Boardwalk” and “Chapel of Love” as well as brand new songs like “In My Bikini” and “Sandy Shores,” you’ll find yourself dancing in your seat and humming right along.
According to Ray Roderick, who is busy juggling three hats for the show, as creator, choreographer and director, “The show is about fun, females and friendship. It’s 75% songs we know and love and 25% new material. It showcases women in a positive way, written by men who love them.”
Calling it “a joyous party,” Roderick finds it “an easy, breezy show where the women don’t stop. They are a talent pool that delivers and has fun in the process.” Stating that the musical’s title is a metaphor for the struggle for equality women face, he feels they are empowered by it, even as they are still vulnerable. The quartet of females in the show relive their past but focus, decades later when they reunite, on the here and now.
The great rock and roll music of the 60’s and 70’s is wrapped around the original talent contest where the goal of the girls was to produce a 45 record demo to get on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and fast forwards to their gathering when they meet to save the Sandy Shores Mobile Home Beach Resort Park, a favorite landmark on the Jersey beach that is being threatened by a land developer who wants to take over and build condos. Each trailer park owner has been offered a quarter of a million dollars to sell out so a giant resort can move in.
Back in 2007, at the Briny Breezes Trailer Park in Florida, the owners were each offered a million dollars to move and “The Bikinis” is loosely based on that true story. In addition, it touches on the innocent fun of that era as well as the Vietnam War, the Woodstock event, flower children and the rise of women’s voices. “The Bikinis” is “a coming of age story that views the world through their eyes.”
For tickets ($55), call the Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Come rediscover the great songs of the 60’s and 70’s as this one hit wonder girls’ group reunites as women. Come hear them roar.