Originally titled “Gidget Goes Psychotic” (until Columbia Pictures put up a squawk), playwright Charles Busch’s ripe parody of ’60s beach flicks, colliding head-on with “Psycho” and “The Three Faces of Eve,” is a hoot of a satire.
Emerging in L.A. after a popular Off Broadway run in the late ’80s, this production is actually a reopening of the production that was unveiled at the St. Genesius last May. When you’re hot, you’re hot.
Written by the playwright of “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” (which was staged at the Coronet in 1990), the show establishes its campy tone right off the top when the 11-member, bright-eyed cast springs onstage to period rock ‘n’ roll in a delicious number that will remind Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello addicts of outtakes from “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”
Heading the ensemble is the hilarious K.W. Miller as Chicklet, a beach-groupie wannabe and all-purpose, sand-in-your-face nerd who worries that her chest is too flat and who yearns to tag along with the gang.
Her basic problem is that Chicklet is a drag queen (the playwright wrote the role for himself), who uncontrollably turns into a vampy dominatrix inspired by ’30s screen heroines.
Naturally, Chicklet’s split personality is her mother’s fault — and what a mommie dearest she has (a scalding Joan Crawford sendup performed by the razor-sharp Suzanne Goddard). Goddard’s triumph is locked to the utter seriousness with which she undertakes her role and to a chunky brunet coiffure that would intimidate an army.
Earmarking the humor is the show’s physical texture: the wig designs by Brad Miller (such as the flaming-red hairstyle on Earlene Davis’ man-hungry sunbather), the cartoonlike set design by Melanie Paizis, the bright seashore colors of lighting designer David Carlton and the Technicolor trunks and bikinis designed by costumer Maria Gutierrez.
But propelling all this and giving the production its aerodynamic lift is director and choreographer Rick Sparks, who was only 6 when “Beach Blanket Bingo” rode its box office wave in 1965.
Sparks has mined the play’s bountiful parody and tapped into its unexpected layer of warmth — its ample, open heart.