Keep your eyes on your cards!
Bingo: The Winning Musical
Sacramento, CA 95814
The word bingo is associated with two things: a nursery rhyme pup and a five-letter, 75-number game of chance. It’s the latter that gets the musical treatment. Bingo: The Winning Musical has fun executing a silly story while accurately using bingo lingo, such as responses to O69, N40 and even a whole musical number on B4. Directed by Glenn Casale at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret—a fun venue in its own right—the book is written by Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid, with music and lyrics by Heitzman, Reid, and David Holcenberg.
It’s a cold, stormy night, but three intrepid bingo enthusiasts decide they just won’t miss the biggest payoff of the year in their local Bingo hall. Despite the ever-worsening rain, they arrive to find the audience filling their home turf. Spectators play along for a few games, and the giddy excitement of stamping the dauber was enough to make the table next to this critic start giggling mercilessly.
The plot is simple and undemanding. It’s the story of rode-hard-and-put-away-wet Vern (Lisa Raggio), superstitious and squirrelly Patsy (Eydie Alyson) and the ever-ditsy Honey (Nikki D’Amico).
The girls start to reminisce about their friend, Bernice (Bonnie Bailey-Reed), and about a falling out she had with Vern more than 15 years ago. In stumbles Bernice’s daughter, Alison (Jessica Crouch), who is trying to reconcile Vern’s and her mother’s friendship before (or B4) Bernice passes away from need of a blood transfusion.
Raggio’s Vern is visceral, crude and easy to like, and Alyson gives a Ritalin-fueled performance as Patsy, complete with trolls, special daubers, Mexican worry dolls and a chromatic collection of rabbit’s feet. The misunderstandings and double entendres of Honey keep the audience titillated, and the flirting between her and Sam (Michael Stevenson) makes for great dumb love.
Bailey-Reed’s shameless flirting with the audience was welcome and certainly loosened-up any stick-in-the-mud types. Her talent and comfort with an audience—in addition to that of the other members of the all-Equity cast—make the improvisational elements of Bingo flow nicely.
The set is sparse but effectively decorated with table and chairs, a bingo ball board and a bingo-ball dispenser. Often the board betrays the less-than-planned nature of the in-show bingo games; it never matters. The costumes are fun and appropriate for the middle-aged bingo nuts/workers, and compliment the bright set pieces nicely.
What can be said with certainty is the show’s events are a mesh of musical and dramatic conventions thrown catawampus into a plot, and the style and setting just happen to be at a bingo hall. This is never more apparent than when Crouch hits the stage; she’s got impressive belts, but it’s a forgettable ingénue role as daughter to a main character.
Despite being predictable—and feeling a bit dated at times—Bingo has messages of friendship and loyalty that play out wonderfully.