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Actors’ Summit celebrates the girl group

6/27/2013 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Actors’ Summit showcasing talented group of singers in ‘The Bikinis’

Starring in Actor Summit Theater’s production of “The Bikinis” are, from left, June Lang, Mary Anne Prevost, Paula Kline-Messner and Chanda Porter.
Photo: Bruce Ford
DOWNTOWN AKRON — OK, let’s get the basics out of the way — the name of the play is “The Bikinis,” but no one wears a bikini on stage at Actors’ Summit Theater.

“The Bikinis” is a salute to the girl groups that were so popular during the 1950s and ’60s. Think of the Supremes as the ultimate girl group. The Bikinis were four high school girls who sang together and made some money (not much) on the beach in New Jersey. They wrote songs about the things they knew — the beach, sand, lifeguards and boys.

As the play starts, the four women have been asked to reunite and do a concert as a fundraiser. The date of this concert is New Year’s Eve, 1999. The Bikinis members are a number of years older, married, divorced, with kids, careers and a hot flash or two.

The interesting thing about the script is how it traces the history of the United States through music. The show opens with standard girl songs — “It’s in His Kiss” and “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” — and modulates into the subtle change of “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” The hippie era generated many songs, including the strong anti-war song “Simple Song of Freedom.” The show ends about 30 songs later in the disco era with “I Will Survive” and “It’s Raining Men.”

The four talented singers in “The Bikinis” are Paula Kline-Messner, June Lang, Chanda Porter and Mary Anne Prevost. Each sings solos and each joins with others to sing backup for a soloist. They seem to be having so much fun with the show that it’s a temptation to stand and do the twist or one of the other popular dances of the 1960s and ’70s.

The singers are supported by a four-piece band that was placed up stage and was visible to the audience. The four instrumentalists are Deborah “Ingy” Ingersoll (music director and keyboards), Mark Bussinger (percussion), Brian DelBianco (bass) and Tim Shilling (swing keyboard). The band provides appropriate accompaniment for the singers — never too loud or too soft. This group is a valuable part of the production.

MaryJo Alexander (director, choreographer, sets, costumes and props) is the glue that holds this production together. The set is a simple boardwalk with a cabana that provides a place for the characters to change costumes and to get different props. Alexander helps her cast establish distinct characters — there’s no confusing one character for another.

Alexander’s choreography includes the footwork and hand gestures of girl groups of the past. These were performed well and brought back memories of those groups. The performance isn’t a parody but a statement of affection for those girl groups.

The intriguing script was created and written by Ray Roderick and James Hindman, with musical arrangements by Joseph Baker and additional music and lyrics by Joseph Baker and Ray Roderick.

“The Bikinis” is perfect for a summer night’s beach party. Simply get a bucket of sand and your favorite bikini (or shorts and a T-shirt) and go to the sixth floor of Greystone Hall — and be prepared for a good time.

“The Bikinis” plays through July 21 (no performances July 4-7). For reservations, call 330-374-7568.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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