CITY THEATER HITS THE SPOT WITH BINGO: THE WINNING MUSICAL!

The cast of BINGO: THE WINNING MUSICAL (l-r): Honey (Leslie Lampert), Vern (Lynne White), Patsy (Kaitlyn McGinley). Photo: www.audrahatch.com

The cast of BINGO: THE WINNING MUSICAL (l-r): Honey (Leslie Lampert), Vern (Lynne White), Patsy (Kaitlyn McGinley). Photo: http://www.audrahatch.com

The cast of BINGO: THE WINNING MUSICAL. Front row, l-r: Honey (Leslie Lampert), Patsy (Kaitlyn McGinny), Vern (Lynne White), Alison (Alyssa Rojecki). Back row: Sam (David Heath), Minnie (Gretchen G. Wood) and Bernice (Jessica Chaples0Graffam). Photo: www.audrahatch.com

The cast of BINGO: THE WINNING MUSICAL. Front row, l-r: Honey (Leslie Lampert), Patsy (Kaitlyn McGinny), Vern (Lynne White), Alison (Alyssa Rojecki). Back row: Sam (David Heath), Minnie (Gretchen G. Wood) and Bernice (Jessica Chaples0Graffam).
Photo: http://www.audrahatch.com

August, 2014

Two of Maine’s most passionate art forms—Theater and (wait for it) Bingo—combine for a totally satisfying and entertaining dose of good community theater and…well…Bingo, of course, in Biddeford City Theater’s laugh-filled production of BINGO: The Winning Musical, running now through August 31st.

The book—written by Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid—snapshots the life of three Bingo-crazed friends, Vern, Honey and Patsy, who have managed to weather a disastrous storm in order to reach the Hamerin County VFW for the annual celebration of the birth of Bingo. Despite the ferocious weather, the show (and the games) goes on thanks to Minnie the Bingo Hall Manager (Gretchen G. Wood) and Sam the Bingo Caller (David Heath), but in-between the thunder and the number-calling, this colorful trio of quirk-filled characters reveals other storms that their longtime friendships have faced…with a surprise biggie yet to come.

Lynne White was perfect as Vern, the matriarchal leader of the pack who maintained a stubborn and rigid persona that ultimately gave way to a soft heart (When it comes to Bingo, this woman is all business and you don’t want to start the game without her or get caught in her chair). Leslie Lampert handled the role of Honey with the right blend of ditz and distraction, and Kaitlin McGinley was wonderfully crazy as the neurotic and obsessive Patsy, complete with garlic cloves and trolls.

The music—by Heitzman, Reid and David Holcenberg—is enjoyable, mainstream Broadway and poppy with a touch of torch. The upbeat group numbers are highlights of the moment, but it’s the cleverly placed and depicted flashback solos that expose the past and reveal the fallout between Vern and her best friend Bernice on a very similar night 15 years ago. Enter Bernice’s daughter Alison, “incognito,” intent on saving the friendship and saving her mother whose health is now failing.

Jessica Chaples-Graffham was quite believable as Bernice, the ever-cheerful super Mom known for her baked goods, volunteer work and spreading sunshine. The role of her young yet determined daughter was aptly handled by Alyssa Rojecki.

David Heath, the only male in the cast, played the dual-role of Sam the Bingo Caller and Frank, a hippie caller from the past, with ease and finesse. As passionate and focused Sam is on Bingo, it was fun to watch the gentleman caller advance from boyfriend “#387 and a half counting circus folk” to fiancé (perhaps a reward for putting up with all those women?)

In between all the action, the songs and the quick-moving storyline, the audience actually gets to play Bingo with the cast and win real prizes. These moments of interactive theater—when the audience become the players and share in the action and impromptu conversation—are always fun.

BINGO: The Winning Musical is pure delight. Director Brian McAloon has done well in wringing out every opportunity for laughter and enjoyment by punching out the wit and silliness this vehicle has to offer.

“Bingo is many things…for some, it is a way of life. Here, it’s a hilarious musical comedy about friendships, loyalty, and the importance of having a blow-up kayak in your trunk at all times,” McAloon wrote in his Playbill notes.

The cast excels in balancing over-the-top schmaltz with understated emotional nuances of their characters. But that’s not surprising. For the most part, these are seasoned actors who have garnered significant stage experience largely “in the ensemble” or playing bit roles. They are the talent and faces that have been seen—and enjoyed—in numerous community theater presentations over the years.

For those not familiar with their credits listed in the Playbill, it is easy to acknowledge the skill level, creative commitment and passion that each cast member brings to their winning performance in Bingo. But the appreciation becomes even more noteworthy when those in the background seamlessly progress into the spotlight and radiate a commanding performance in a leading role.

[While all deserve mention, my nominee for Outstanding Comedy Performance is Gretchen G. Wood, a consummate professional with an incredible range of acting, a powerful voice and uncanny comedic ability, who—no matter what show she’s in—turns in an award-winning performance.

Lynne White’s torchy rendition of “Swell” was more than swell—it was amazing.

But it was Alyssa Rojecki’s incredible delivery of “I Still Believe In You” and “Ratched’s Lament” that made the price of admission, plus an extra Bingo card, such a great deal. A 4th year Theatre Major at The University of Southern Maine, Miss Rojecki is a humble, gifted singer/actress/dancer who wears many hats and who will not forget her community theater roots on her continued journey to stardom.]

Bethany Perkins was at the helm of the fine pit that also featured Jeff Coggins on second piano, Jimmy McGirr on bass and Bill Manning on drums/percussion.

BINGO: The Winning Musical runs from August 22 to August 31. City Theater is located at 205 Main St., Biddeford. For tickets and more info, call 282-0849 or visit http://www.citytheatertix.org.

The audience will leave the theater (excuse me…Bingo hall) smiling and humming, recalling the many zany moments they just witnessed. But by all means, always mark your free spot.

###

–Louis Philippe

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One Response to “CITY THEATER HITS THE SPOT WITH BINGO: THE WINNING MUSICAL!”

  1. Aunt Martha Says:

    Jessica is married to my Nephew ! Break a leg, Jessica !

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