Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love
For this interactive show the audience is seated in the theatre / bingo hall with bags of popcorn and bingo cards in hand. The story is about three women named Vern, Patsy and Honey, who are longtime friends and avid bingo fans. As they venture out to play bingo on this incredibly stormy night, they are all reminded of a similar terrible night fifteen years earlier. Through flashbacks, they each recall that night long ago when their dear friend Bernice had an argument over a bingo card with Vern, which resulted in her permanent estrangement from the group.
Enter Bernice's daughter, Alison. Her mother is seriously ill in the hospital and in need of a blood transfusion. Alison has decided to attempt to mend the relationship between her mother and the other women before it is too late. Though the friends all miss each other, no one wants to make the first move. Knowing she be will be met with resistance, Alison infiltrates the bingo hall in disguise. When she finally reveals her true identity, all is forgiven, and Bernice is reunited with her friends. They even discover that Vern has the exact rare blood type needed for Bernice's life saving blood transfusion. The women resolve to remain friends despite whatever storms may lie ahead, for in the words of the composer: "What's a little rain on a night with the girls?"
The lighthearted nature of this show has great general appeal. There is no deep angst or great social commentary in Bingo, just a genuine good time to be had. In contemporary American musical theatre, outside of something Disney, it is rare to find a show the whole family can enjoy. In this show, the audience even gets to play three games of bingo along with the cast, with cash prizes awarded to the winning audience members.
For the hard core musical theatre fan there is a deliciously tongue-in-cheek song called "Ratched's Lament." Alison is an aspiring actress, living in NYC, and the understudy to the lead in an off-off-off Broadway musical. The musical, based on the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, is called simply Cuckoo!. When the girls ask her to sing something from the show, she launches into a melodramatic reenactment of the song "Ratched's Lament," and the girls join in as cast members. One cannot help but chuckle at the many movies, from the successful Hairspray to the flop Carrie, that have been made into musicals, both good and bad.
Margot Moreland is commanding on stage as the alpha female of the group, Vern. She heartily sings of her life as a loner in the song "Swell." The superstitious character of Patsy, with her good luck charms, rabbit's feet and troll dolls is well played by Samara Dunn. Though the strength of her voice is evident throughout the show, her huge belt is most fully appreciated in "Green Troll Doll." Gail Byer as Bernice is warm and comedic, with a voice nearly as big as Moreland's and Dunn's. Jessie Alagna, who plays Alison, has a versatile singing voice, and acts and sings "Ratched's Lament" very well. The character of Honey is sweet, sexy and simple. She is a very pretty, if overly made-up kewpie doll, currently between husbands. Janice Hamilton manages to make her dear rather than trampy or dumb, and admirably maintains the character's breathy, sexy, little girl voice even while singing. Jim Ballard is convincingly studly and funny as the latest object of Honey's desire, Sam the bingo caller. Rounding out the cast is Miki Edelman, who has great personality as the bingo hall hostess, Minnie.
The music written for Bingo is well suited to the material. Unlike similar original musicals, Bingo contains at least one memorable melody, "Girls Night Out," one is likely to hum well after leaving the theatre. In Margot Moreland, Samara Dunn, Jessie Alagna and Gail Byer, the director is fortunate to have found four power-house voices to really sell this show. The live three-piece band, as led by musical director Eric Alsford, creates a surprisingly full sound, and the theatre's sound system for this show is crystal clear.
Bingo is scheduled to appear November 11, 2006 - January 28, 2007 at the Stage Door Theatre on 26th Street in Wilton Manors. FL. Their two stages in Coral Springs as well as their 26th Street Theatre location are open year round. The Stage Door Theatre is a not-for-profit professional theatre company hiring local and non-local nonunion actors and actresses. Some shows, such as Bingo, when produced by outside companies, may hire local and non-local Equity actors and actresses as well. For tickets and information on this show and the rest of the Stage Door Theatre season, you may contact the theatre at 954-344-7765 or on line at www.stagedoortheatre.com.
* Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.