Even Illinois-born Ray Roderick knows that nothing beats Jersey Shore summers. Which is why the Broadway performer/director and Bradley Beach resident used our beaches as the setting for The Bikinis, a musical making its world premiere August 12 at the Carousel House in Asbury Park.
“I had a great time growing up, but it wasn’t nearly as magical as the Jersey Shore vibe,” says Roderick, whose inspiration came from his Jersey-born wife, Broadway actress Karyn Quackenbush, and her Shore stories from the 1960s and ’70s.
Written with production partner Jim Hindman, The Bikinis reunites four 50-something women to reminisce about their glory days as the Shore’s reigning girl vocal group. Roderick and veteran Broadway composer Joseph Baker arranged popular oldies for the show—including “It’s in His Kiss” and “Under the Boardwalk”—and added some catchy originals.
“It’s a coming-of-age story,” says Roderick, “and a little itty-bitty piece of America told through the innocent eyes of girls who fell in love with each other at the Jersey Shore.”
Roderick could not imagine a better company to present the show’s debut than the Asbury Park-based ReVision Theatre. “I just loved their vibe and what they did with Hair and The Full Monty in past seasons,” he says.
As for the Bikinis, veteran Broadway and off-Broadway actresses Cheryl Freeman, Annie Golden, Kathy Morath, and Quackenbush immediately bonded through similar sentiments about the Shore.
Morath, originally from Montville and now of Livingston, and Quackenbush, who grew up in West Milford, have fond memories of vacationing in Beach Haven and racing to the beach right after prom, in true Jersey tradition. Freeman, who grew up in Washington, D.C, and now lives in Union City, loved visiting her Jersey cousins in the summer. “I lived on the boardwalk,” she says. “Just showing off my yellow bikini and trying to get the looks.” Brooklyn-bred Golden played the Stone Pony and Paramount Theatre in the 1970s as lead singer of pop band the Shirts.
Staying with the Jersey-girl theme, Eatontown-based swimsuit designer Beverly Beveridge and her wholesale company, Passport to Peru, designed a retro line inspired by the show. Her daughter and main designer, Melissa, admits watching “a lot of Gidget” to create the brightly colored, polka-dotted looks. The four suits reflect each of the characters’ distinct personalities and are available for sale after performances. It’s a little hush-hush whether you’ll see the Bikinis strut the suits on stage, but Morath and Roderick both hinted at a surprise ending.
“We show the very positive side of the Jersey Shore—the side that I know—which is all about family and celebrating life,” says Roderick. “It’s just the greatest.”
The Bikinis runs August 12–22 with performances Wednesday–Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 7 pm. For tickets ($15–$40), call ReVision Theatre at 732-455-3059 or visit revisiontheatre.org.