Saturday, January 14, 2012

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

Critic: Allison Leadley

Play at a Glance: In an homage to the musical teen comedies of the 1960s, Freddie (Thomas Duplessie) and his “Pineapple Princess”, Jeanette (Sarah Kuzio) want to throw one-last summer shin-dig before returning to school in the fall. Their dreams of a Tiki Bikini Beach party are derailed when the local beach bully Big Tuna (Evan Dowling) refuses to surrender his stronghold - prime beach party real estate with the best waves. The dueling teens end up battling for the beach in a surfing showdown where Big Tuna and Freddie face-off not only for the beach, but for Jeanette’s heart.

First Impressions: The typical television tropes and stereotypes are all present and accounted for (from the muscle head to the geek) as they sing about surfing, parties and summer flings in campy send-up of the beach-party genre. It’s a fun piece that plays up its own stereotypes. While there is only so much dramatic potential one could mine from surfing and bikinis, the script is fully aware of the limitations of their dramatic inspiration mocking the vapid stereotypes of the beach bimbo or wacky professor in a campy homage. While certainly not the most cerebral or challenging theatre I have seen, it’s a fun hour that evoked my nostalgia for the Saturday syndicated television re-run.

Highlights: The lover’s duet “I Think You Think” was certainly the highlight of the show. A sweet ditty between Duplessie and Kuzio, their chemistry was palpable and despite their cheeky take on the trope (narrowly missing death as they cuddle in the car) the moment was surprisingly endearing.

Nit Picks: There were significant projection issues that made it difficult to hear. Furthermore, the “woody” jokes were starting to run a little thin by the end of the hour.

Audience’s Instant Reaction: Judging from the laughs, the audience seemed to be having fun; however, there was no standing ovation or a second curtain call. A definite highlight for audience members was the live band the von Drats who received a significant swell of applause and a shout out from a fan sitting nearby.

Critic’s Instant Reaction (out of four stars): 2.5/4

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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