I’m going to start this week musical Monday review with a story from my childhood. As a child, my grandparents and mother would spend many Sunday evenings at the local bingo ball and I could never understand why they enjoyed it so much. Younger me could not think of anything worse than sitting in a busy hall, stamping a card full of random number. Until recently I had experienced the thrill of a bingo night out with the overwhelming excitement when you are waiting for one singular number to win a large jackpot. I can now call myself a recently converted bingo fanatic so to find out there was a musical written about my new obsession was amazing. The talented trio of Michael Heitzman, Ilene Reid & David Holcenberg wrote “Bingo- a winning new musical” back in 2006 and it was very successful with an off-Broadway run that year. They had managed to create a musical that perfectly captures the fun and excitement of bingo which is fantastically clever and well-staged. This is a show that contains a classical musical theatre vibe throughout the show with cheesy music numbers and wonderfully over-the-top characters. The show has included a small section of the show dedicated to audience participation which I imagine is very fun and engaging when performed live. These influences help add to the joyous and energetic sense of the show. However, despite how over-the-top characters in this show are, there are only seven principal characters within the show six of which are female and only one male performer. All these factors suggest that this is a show fantastic for community theatre productions (preferable with an older cast) and the rights are available only. I understand that having a seven-person cast is not inclusive for community theatre but the online rights state that you can attend the cast if you needed to so it can fit the purpose of the specific companies who are trying to put on the show.
The story of the bingo musical is relatively simple. It follows the lives of six die-hard bingo fanatics who will stop at nothing to miss their weekly bingo fix. The creatives behind the show have observed the dynamics of a bingo night out as they are capture accurate and honest narratives on such an evening. In between the fast-paced number calling (which constantly amazes me!) fierce competitiveness develops, romance forms and friendships develop all of which are common ideas that happen every night at bingo. On the idea of competitiveness, I am constantly entertained by the chorus of grunts and comments when someone wins at the bingo and for someone reason, everyone develops a hope of the claims being fake so the game can continue. I’m not normally a competitive person but I fall into the trap of wanting to win and being disappointed when I don’t. The show documents about friendships/sisterhood and follows these girls on a night out to the bingo which would be a fantastic show to watch live with a group of friends!
The songs throughout this musical are very vocal accessible to all ages and skill levels which make it even more fantastic for community theatre productions. “I Still Believe In You” is a super fun song that documents the excitement you experience in your first game This excitement develops into the bingo bug that pulls you in to want to attend every week to hopefully win again. The reprise of this song later in the album is again a very fun song about winning in bingo with an almost gospel-inspired number. I have to say that my favourite number in the whole musical was “Under My Wing” which is a jazz-inspired number with almost a spoken word performance about the rules of the game. The number has an almost musical cabaret/burlesque influences which alongside the mentor style inclusion made me think of films such as burlesque. I can imagine fantastic routines and wonderful bright costumes which would make for a fantastic watch. Another character-based song was “The Birth of Bingo” which is an incredibly cheesy and over-the-top number that plays into the classic musical theatre ideas. The number has an almost vaudevillian musical lyrics and performance which was very entertaining and had me laughing throughout. The song “Swell” was very different from the rest of the songs in this album as it was very moving and emotional which contrasted the fun songs in the rest of the songs. This number was performed flawlessly by Liz McCartney who is an insanely talented singer and embodied all the emotion behind the number.
Overall, ‘Bingo: a winning new musical’ is a mostly fun and high energy number that perfectly captures the experiences of spending a night out at bingo with your friends. It’s a wonderfully energetic show that I imagine is staged in a way that is just as fun and fantastic to watch. I would rate this soundtrack 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend to people who have yet to experience the phenomenon that is BINGO!