The Beach Party movies are a genre of films from the 1960s that were basically the High School Musical films of their day. The original series of films, produced by American International Pictures, were a very popular franchise with teens from the time period and starred former Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and singing idol Frankie Avalon.
The plots were fairly sparse - Frankie, Annette and their friends had innocent adventures on and off the beach, with someone breaking into song every now and then along the way. Veteran movie stars like Mickey Rooney and Vincent Price regularly showed up in cameo roles along with singing stars from the era, including "Little" Stevie Wonder and Nancy Sinatra. Titles in the Beach Party series of films include How To Stuff A Wild Bikini, Beach Blanket Bingo and The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini, which is the last film in the original series and doesn't actually feature Frankie, Annette or a beach! Other production companies and studios soon jumped on the bandwagon and made their own versions of the movies. The Beach Party films were full of beach balls, belly buttons, beautiful babes and buff boys!
The Tiki Bikini Beach Paradise Party A-Go-Go! is a spoof of the original films that had its start in last summer's Toronto Fringe Festival, where it was named "Patron's Pick" and "Best of Fringe". The show - written, directed and choreographed by Allison Beula, opens tonight as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival.
Allison Beula is one of the nicest and most talented director/choreographers in the biz. She choreographed a community theatre production that I appeared in several years ago. While I did take some dance classes when I was at theatre school, I am definitely no Baryshnikov. Allison managed to make even me look good up on stage in my tights! I recently met up with my old friend to talk about her fabulous and fun show, The Tiki Bikini Beach Paradise Party A-Go-Go!
Gay Theatre Toronto
Congrats on being picked for the Next Stage Theatre Festival. You must be excited!
Thanks so much for taking the time to ask about the show. I am thrilled at how well things have been going and so proud to be a part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival.
So, where did the idea for a spoof on the Beach Party movies come from?
I literally grew up watching film musicals- my favourites are all the Fred and Ginger's and of course the glorious MGM films of the 30s-50s. In recent years I have started looking at films just outside that time gap and found myself falling just a little in love with Elvis and his films from the 50s and 60s, which lead me to the Beach Party franchise. When I first saw them I thought, "Man, these are awful!". But as a dancer first, I loved the crazy 60s dance numbers so I kept on watching. I discovered that these films, although in many ways completely dated, plot-less and inane, have this...energy about them! They are so comically ridiculous that I thought I just HAD to do something with them! I like to say the show is a "loving parody" as some of it is straight up how they did it in the 60s and other parts have been enhanced by me where needed. The best part is that some of the things they did in the actual movies are so completely ridiculous that no one would believe me if I said I was using them straight out of the films. It's really a blend of homage, parody, and my own silly sense of humour, direction and choreography.
Your original run as part of last summer's Toronto Fringe Festival was a great success. Have you changed anything about the show since then?
I am so very fortunate in that ALL of our cast signed back on for this run, which is amazing! So much of the success of the show is due to the exuberance and individual personalities of my cast members so I have to say that very little has changed. Our time slot is the same as last summer (60 minutes) so we didn't have room this time around to add or extend. There are some small changes of course, here and there, but by and large, audiences will get the same Tikitastic time they got last summer!
I think Frankie and Annette would really get a kick out of Tiki. Do you know if any of the original beach party movies' casts or writers have heard about the show?
My one fun story here concerns this exact question. When I was putting the show together I wanted to contact the original song writers (we have both new, original songs as well as Beach Party film-era songs in the show) to talk about permissions and rights and to also find out where I could find sheet music to some of the material as I was not able to find any on my own. I found out to my dismay that almost all of the writers and composers of the songs I wanted to use had passed away, except one. It turns out he became a reverend and is now living and practicing in California. I took a gamble and wrote to his parish and the very same day he wrote back to me! He told me what a great time he had working on the films back in the day and how that was all behind him now but he sent me his blessings and good wishes! He also said they never published any of the songs and to go ahead and lift them, so thank goodness for my amazing musical director on doing that!
Your cast is absolutely fantastic! They are all triple threats. What have they been like to work with?
My cast members are...phenomenal, not just as performers, but as people. To be honest, I hand picked each one not only based on talent, but based on people I wanted to work with, people who would support me no matter how the show did and people who really deserve a "big break" and I am doing everything in my power to see they get it because they have earned it. They work hard, are kind and get along with everyone. It's pretty magical. I have a "no jerk" policy, both personally and professionally, and let's face it, this show needed really, really happy, nice, energetic people or it just wouldn't work. The enthusiasm that audiences are getting from the show is partly the show itself but it's also the cast. They really love doing the show and it comes across.
Is there a special Tiki moment you'd like to share with my readers?
Well, lots of amazing things have happened to all of us on this crazy ride but one of my favourite stories is how I met our live band, The von Drats. When I wrote the show, I planned for a live surf band but didn't have one in mind. I figured with all the contacts I have in theatre we'd be able to just piece one together. I did however have to inform the Fringe, fairly early in the process, how many band members I would have, so I took a musical guess and said 5. Cut to a benefit I was at with my boyfriend. He for some reason overheard a guy say something about "William Shatner", which peaked his interest and they got to talking. Well, a few drinks and a few hours later he suddenly yells "Allison, you have to come over here right now!!!!" so I go over and it turns out this guy is Greg von Drat...a band member from a VINTAGE SIXTIES SURF BAND that has, yes, 5 members! I can't believe this even exists, so I give him my card and tell him I am dead serious about using his group for my show, not sure he's even going to remember me the next day. First thing the next morning, I get an email from The von Drats saying they are interested and the rest, as they say, is history. Not only did they know the era but they are total fans, knew the movies, the songs, everything! That, my friend, is some serious Tiki magic if ever there has been some!
What do you think the next stage will be for Tiki after Next Stage?
I think we are all very optimistic about Tiki's future. It has so much potential to be expanded into a longer version with more story, songs and dances. I am really hoping someone steps up to the plate to help us get it to the "next level". My composer, the amazing Jeffery Straker and I have been in talks about new songs and I have an extended draft of the show already under way. I am hoping we're the next "Drowsy Chaperone", which had its start at Toronto Fringe - that's really the dream here. Oh, and Tony awards for everyone, yes, THAT is the dream!
It's time for The Tiki Bikini Beach Paradise Party A-Go-Go!, January
4th-15th, Presented at the 2012 Next Stage Theatre Festival at The
Factory Theatre. Tickets $12-$15 by phone at 416-966-1062 or online at www.fringetoronto.com