In playwriting, is anything more sublime than a jukebox musical? Take some favorite oldies, write a script that loosely ties them together, and add choreography. Voila: Rock of Ages. Or Mamma Mia! Or Come Fly Away. Or whatever.
The Bikinis, now at South Park Theatre, is just such a slapdash idea. A quartet of Jersey girls once sang covers of "Be My Baby" and "I Will Survive," and now after 25 years they've reunited. I would be astonished if creators Ray Roderick and James Hindman took more than two hours to write the script. Maybe they spent a separate afternoon composing the two original songs. As cookie-cutter theater goes, The Bikinis may be the world's laziest sample.
What salvages this production is its sugary cast. Debbie Boughner, Kathy Hawk, Leah Hillgrove and Gwyneth Welling are the finest singers I've ever seen on a South Park stage. Each has a distinctive voice, and they harmonize nicely. Linda Matthews' choreography is a groovy combination of monkey and twist, and director Stephen Santa keeps the energy high. Even Adrienne Fischer's set is well designed. Granted, the play is set in a trailer park, but it's a really nicely rendered trailer park.
The way to enjoy The Bikinis is to simply give in. If Beach Blanket Bingo is their muse, then we must accept it. Grit your teeth through the egregious dialogue, the lame jokes, the upsetting Italian accents and the relentless Baby Boomer masturbation. Absorb the hackneyed monologues about Woodstock and lost surfer hunks. Allow the Vietnam War to be used for cheap gravitas. Embrace the boob jokes. Become one with the disco ball.
In the end, The Bikinis is a chance for a cool quartet of women to sing some old chart-toppers. Pop music doesn't have a lot of room for middle-aged women, unless you count karaoke bars, and it's refreshing to see four talents flaunt their skills. These performers can move, and they make two dozen dance numbers look easy. South Park has a modest stage, and as usual, they make it seem twice as large. If their boots were made for walkin', well, that's just what they should do.