Bingo! The Winning Musical
Book by Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid
Music & Lyrics by Michael Heitzman, Ilene Reid and David Holcenberg
Directed by Nancy Hoover

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents copyright © 2013 by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

Well, they aren’t talking about Old McDonald’s dog, folks.

I suspect your appreciation of the latest offering by the Eve Theatre Company, Bingo! The Winning Musical, will depend largely on how much you revere or despise the whole culture of the Bingo game industry in the U.S., particularly in the South.

Much is made of how addicted the central characters in this story are to the game, and we are even treated to some recitation of the game’s history. The women in the story take their Bingo VERY seriously, ready to terminate decades-long friendships over the possession of a winning card. And that’s my problem with the piece: with only one or two exceptions, all of the characters are self-centered and unlikeable, making it very difficult to root for any of them.

The story takes place in pretty much real-time and is set at the all-purpose room of the VFW hall, which has been set up for a regular night at Bingo. We, the audience, are set up to be participants in the game. (We are even given cards to play a couple of rounds.) Vern (Cindy Smith), Honey (Susan McNeese Lynch) and Patsy (Jackie Carrico) arrive late to the game, whining, bickering and sniping at each other about missing the first round. In short order, we learn that Vern hasn’t spoken to her best friend Bernice (Diane Stretz-Thurmond) in fifteen years after falling out over a Bingo game. When a new, younger player (Hannah Clore) joins the game, it’s pretty easy to guess where the story is going. And you’d be right.

The main cast do very nice jobs in bringing these characters to life, but they aren’t given much to work with in Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid’s script. It tries very hard to emulate the white-trash hilarity of playwrights such as Del Shores or Jones Hope Wooten. But except for a very few genuinely funny moments, it fails to live up to the potential of its premise.

The songs by Heitzman, Reid and David Holcenberg are not very interesting and almost instantly forgettable. I’m a big fan of musicals, but not one of this show’s melodies stuck with me after, even though several numbers are performed with high energy and gusto by the talented, nearly-all-female cast.

Director Nancy Hoover has done a great job staging the piece, though. She makes good use of the space at the Henry Clay Theater and coaxes strong performances out of her entire troupe.

Critiques of the source material aside, though, it is a show that does have its moments and deserves a chance to find its audience. Unfortunately, it’s had to close early due to an injured cast member and has canceled all of its remaining performances. It may be revived at a later date, however. So if it sounds like something that would appeal to you, keep an eye on the local listings.

Featuring Della Brown, Jackie Carrico, Hannah Clore, Darren McGee, Phil Lynch, Susan McNeese Lynch, Cindy Smith and Diane Stretz-Thurmond

Bingo! The Winning Musical
October 24, 25, 26, 2013
Eve Theatre Company
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 S. Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202