Reviewed by Jon Russell Coggins
The first question I asked myself is why a theatre would produce a play at Christmas time and not use the built-in marketing bonus of a seasonal show. The second question was – is the world ready for a musical about bingo? Bingo! The Winning Musical penned by Michael Heitzman, Ilene Reid and David Holcenberg (too many cooks?) and directed by Dr. Quincy O. Dobbs and Laura MacIntyre, opened Thursday night at Flint Community Players’ Tom and Bea Nobles Performance Hall to a receptive audience.
The play chronicles the story of three (used to be four) trailer park denizens enjoying their “ladies night out at bingo”, a killer storm, flashbacks, a big reveal and the usual heartwarming ending. On a set that seemed cramped as nearly everyone brushed against or into chairs and tables, the story features a circle of moldering stereotypes: there’s a loose woman named Honey (Savannah Young), the stern leader Vern (Maria VanHorn), who eventually gets her comeuppance, and the rabid fan, Patsy (Mike Young). There’s also, Alison (Katie Sevo), the child that saves them all, and finally, Bernice (Christina Bradford), a ghost from the past, though she is only dying and not yet dead. Annie Oper plays Minnie the bingo hall manager, and Ian Thomas plays the dual Sam/Frank the lecherous and past hippie drug user/current bingo caller. Minnie’s assistant (P.J. Riker) and the announcer (Judie Santo) round out the cast.
In reviewing my notes, the word Volume appears often. At times, in speaking and vocals, it was hard to hear or understand many of the characters. I believe the band, though the music was nice, overshadowed a lot of the vocals. I even questioned whether the mics were working.
All the principals shined at times. VanHorn was especially nice with the flashback scenes and her efforts to control her minions. Her vocals were strong. Savannah Young played well also and her duet “Gentleman Caller” with Thomas was sweet. Mike Young (did FCP need another woman as this character was played by a male? If it was intentional then he needs to shave off the five o’clock shadow and walk and move more like a female – though God bless him he did it all in heels!) was one of the strongest voices as he/she maniacally sprinkled her bingo mojo around. Also strong on vocals and very animated was Thomas as the bingo caller. His flashback costume changes seemed problematic. If it was done for laughs it should have been all out in the open and not hidden behind the counter where we saw it anyway. Sevo played nicely and had a strong voice but was troubled by the high notes. The troupe were all much stronger when they came together especially in the opening and closing numbers and the song “I Still Believe” as well as its reprise.
A couple of theatre 101 notes: actors must keep their face toward the audience when speaking, avoid anticipating actions or movements, and, in some cases, pick up cues a bit faster.
The “fourth wall” was not only breached it was torn down as the audience had a chance to play bingo with the show. This seemed to be an audience favorite and a nice touch. VanHorn’s Vern was funny as she berated an audience member for stealing her seats and, as we learn, her raffle prize!
The big reveal was touching, with a nice bit of special effects, and the climax was heartwarming. No details here to spoil the surprise. The audience answered my question about a bingo musical with their enthusiastic response and applause at the show’s end.
Give Scrooge the day off and try your luck at BINGO!
Bingo! The Winning Musical continues at the FCP facility December 6, 7, 13, and 14 at 8:00 PM and December 8 and 15 at 2:30 PM. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-441-9302.