Saturday, January 14, 2012

First Impression review: The Tiki Bikini Beach Paradise Party A-Go-Go! at the Next Stage Theatre Festival.

Critic: Johanna Lawrie

Play at a Glance: In Allison Beula’s “The Tiki Bikini Beach Paradise Party A-Go-Go,” beachwear, sun and the surf are re-imagined retro-style, accompanied by a “Sixties Surfer to English Dictionary” in the program to “better help you understand [their] whacked-out lingo Hodads!” To celebrate the end of summer, Jeannette Bowlajello (Sarah Kuzio), Freddie Babbleon (Thomas Duplessie), and the whole gang want to throw the party to end all parties...a-go-go! Unfortunately, they must win a surfing competition against Big Tuna (Evan Dowling) to score the ultimate beach location. With catchy songs and energetic choreography, this show brings summer fun to the dark, cold winter days.

First Impression: Though the jokes and characters were well delivered, the humour gets a little old at times. Buela’s staging and choreography are imaginative and keep the audience entertained during this hour-long performance. This may not be the next Tony-award winner, but the playful show is a lot of fun; a great way to pass the afternoon with some friends.

Highlights: The tight cast maintain their exaggerated characters through the show, drawing jokes out of the cheesy script and their over-the-top stereotypes. Jeffrey Straker’s music is well incorporated, performed live by The von Drats. The ‘keenest’ performance was definitely Kuzio’s Jeannette, demonstrating vocal chops and a charming character. The energy and catchy tunes are contagious, providing a nice relief to the drab winter.

The Nit-Picks: The inclusion of some pointless and repetitive jokes certainly slows down this fast-paced show. The performances are strong but even with the ‘cheesy sixties’ vibe, the script was a little repetitive and predictable. Of course, this is part of the charm of the show, but the painfully large smiles and obvious jokes were at times just that: painful and obvious.

Audience Instant Reactions: Everyone seemed to enjoy being out of the blistering cold, humming and laughing along with this energetic, summer party.

Critic’s Instant Reaction:
3 stars out of 4

Note from Nestruck: This review was written as part of a workshop on theatre criticism and time constraints. Participants were asked to file a review within one hour of seeing a show of their choice at Toronto's Next Stage festival.

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