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Bye Bye Birdie
a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Book by Michael Stewart, Music by Charels Strauss, Lyrics by

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 3902

SHOWING : January 28, 2011 - February 20, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Conrad Birdie has been DRAFTED, devastating his teenage fans across the nation. Albert Peterson is a songwriter to the rescue. He and his secretary (and long-suffering girlfriend) Rosie scheme to have Birdie sing a song on The Ed Sullivan Show, and then kiss a randomly-chosen high school girl goodbye before going off to the Army. This classic American musical is a favorite for the ages.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Robert Egizio
Costume Design Jim Alford
Choreographer Ricardo Aponte
Sound Design Dan Bauman
Stage Manager Pamela Cassiday
Wig/Hair Design George Deavours
Lighting Design Michael Magursky
Musical Director Linda Uzelac
Scenic Design Chuck Welcome
Lighting Design John David Williams
Percussion Chip Coursey
Rose Alvarez Denise Arribas
Albert Peterson Brad Bergeron
Harry MacAfee Charlie Bradshaw
Ensemble Jeffery Brown
Teen Ensemble Emma Clinch
Ensemble George Deavours
Ensemble Al Dollar
Doris MacAfee Kelly Fletcher
Harvey Johnson Sam Lauten
Ensemble Courtney Loner
Ensemble Kathleen McCook
Randolph MacAfee Chase McGrath
Conrad Birdie Nicholas Morrett
Ensemble Patty Mosley
Mae Peterson Cathe Hall Payne
Teen Ensemble Dorothy Reeves
Ursula Merkle Kaitlyn Reynell
Hugo Peabody Keenan Rogers
Teen Ensemble Corin Rogers
Teen Ensemble Brydan Rogers
Teen Ensemble Aidan Rogers
Teen Ensemble Bronte Upshaw
Kim MacAfee Hannah Wilkinson
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REVIEWS

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Happy Face
by Dedalus
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
4.5
There’s nothing like a rousing rendition of “Bye Bye Birdie” to put me in my Happy-Face place. Steeped in a rose-tinted hindsight of what we believe were the “best of times,” “Birdie” quietly skewers the rigid mindsets we sorta-kinda outgrew at the same time it wallows in the teenage obsessions we never outgrow. Filled to the brim with tuneful frolics, it’s the sort of musical escapism that sneaks in its messages while it dances away a few hours of your life you don’t mind losing. Okay, maybe the songs are more Shubert Alley than Brill Building, but they still effectively bring back those giddy feelings of stacking the 45’s and partying until that 9:00 PM curfew.

And Stage Door Players has (or had) such a rousing rendition. Cleverly designed and energetically performed, this show put a smile on my face which didn’t disappear until long after I was home.

Just to recap the plot, teen idol Conrad Birdie is going into the army. His manager (well, his manager’s gal-pal and secretary) concoct a scheme in which Conrad gives “One Last Kiss” to a middle-America teenage fan. Faster than you can find Sweet Apple Ohio in your Rand-McNally, the world of music has invaded the home of the MacAfee family, and their world will never be the same.

Along the way, we are treated to such classic musical comedy staples as the over-bearing mother, the “bad boy” rock star, the good-hearted but jealous boy friend, the gal-pal who deserves more, and a bevy of small town types and tropes. Hanging over it all is a curtain of innocence that’s probably more fantasy than history, in spite of the pseudo-Spanish “hot tamale” (who’s really from Allentown PA) dropped into the center of it all like a depth charge.

Indeed, Denise Arribas sank her teeth into the role of Rosie Alvarez with a flair and energy that was positively infectious. She had an appeal and charm that centered this entire production, in spite of her severe (and unflattering) ‘50’s hair style, which seemed to add a decade or two to her appearance. And, because Bradley Bergeron’s Albert was so baby-faced and naďve, this, at first, seemed a slight disconnect, and it made the Rose-Albert-Ma triangle a tad, well, weird. (BTW, I loved how Cathe Hall Payne bulldozed her way through the story as Mae, Albert’s monster mother.) But, by the end, it worked beautifully, and Albert and Rosie’s last dance was a charming ode to doing-the-right-thing.

As Conrad, Nicholas Morrett was all smarm and swivel-hips when he was performing, and crude and belch-happy when he was not. It was a near-perfect combination that left room for a bit of panicky vulnerability when the Sweet Apple kids began to get a little too aggressive. Hannah Celeste Wilkinson was a lovely and charming Kim, and Charlie Bradshaw and Kelly Fletcher played her parents with affection and exasperation. I was glad that Mr. Bradshaw chose to make Mr. MacAfee his own character, and did not evoke the ghost of Paul Lynde at all.

They were supported by separate and equally marvelous ensembles, one teen and the other adult (special props to the sad-faced teen who is brought to life in “Put on a Happy Face” – she moved with precision and grace, and when she finally put on her happy face and cut loose with Ricardo Aponte’s lively choreography, she was a joy to behold). Music Director Linda Uzelac kept the groups together and on-key, and never let the small orchestra overwhelm the singers.

As to the design and staging, I really REALLY liked how the suggestive set (designed by Chuck Welcome) was able to spin and twist quickly into the many many locations, how a platform was made to morph from a desk to a bed to a stage and back again. I loved how the pastel-colored angular blocks of the backdrop (lit from within, of course), suggested all those early 60’s fads in appliance design and color, the pop-art trends of the period, and the garish variety shows that were beginning to be must-see TV. It was an almost perfect set, marred only by a few (quick and painless) sightline glimpses into the backstage areas. Costumes (Jim Alford) and wigs (George Deavours) also enhanced the 1960’s feel of the show.

The Stage Door venue always presents a blocking challenge, configured with equal portions of audience on two contiguous sides. It’s a set-up half-way between proscenium and “in-the-round,” and none of the blocking “rules” for those conventions will be useful here. However, director Robert Egizio made it all seem easy, Masses of characters romped and danced over the set with little or no sight-line or “stage picture” issues. And the lights of Michael Magursky and John David Williams made them all shine.

So, this is an old-fashioned musical written during an old-fashioned time. It gently skewers the gender mindset of the era while it takes a positive delight in the idol-worshipping teens who seem remarkably like today’s Jonas-and-Bieber-obsessed kids. It’s centered by a totally awesome performance by Denise Arribas, and it put me in a Happy-Face place from which I’ve yet to return.

And, that’s really all I ask of a musical!

-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com)

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Entertaining
by playgoer
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
3.5
As is the case with most musical comedies, "Bye Bye Birdie" is most successful when played with great energy and sincerity. Stage Door Players' production doesn't quite deliver in either department. The energy fades in and out, particularly with the over-choreographed teen ensemble. I watched the smile on Kaitlin Reynell's face come and go as she concentrated on her movements during dance numbers, which proved a fatal quality in the role of Ursula, which can easily be a scene-stealing standout. Sincerity is also a bit lacking in the goofy performance of Bradley Bergeron as Albert Peterson and in Charlie Bradshaw as a weirdly passive Harry MacAfee.

Some odd directorial choices have been made, besides in having Harry frequently rest his head on Mrs. MacAfee's shoulder. The oddest, perhaps, is having Kim MacAfee change clothing from a dress to jeans, sweatshirt, and ball cap during "How Lovely to Be a Woman." It's in complete contrast to the lyrics, which I suppose is the point, but it has no resonances elsewhere in the show. Nothing in the performance of Hannah Celeste Wilkinson suggests a tomboy; nor does anything in her lines.

Keenan Rogers plays Kim's boyfriend, Hugo Peabody, and he is a natural for the role. The audience perked up appreciably when he came onstage. He is young, though, and doesn't always have perfect stage sense. Some of his movements seem directed rather than natural. All in all, though, he shows great promise as a performer.

Action takes place on a pastel, Mondrian-like unit set that has a couple of pullouts to suggest the MacAfee home. A large platform in the center plays multiple duties -- Albert's desk, a conference table for Shriners, railroad platforms, a TV stage, etc. It gives a nice retro feel to the proceedings without being overly intrusive. Scene transitions occur quickly, since there's no shifting about of furnishings.

Costumes and wigs suggest the 60's without being overly period in style. The females' costumes fit well, but the men's costumes don't always. It almost seemed that there was one size jacket being worn by a variety of characters, with the sleeves being too long for George Deavours and Charlie Bradshaw and the fit being a bit snug on Bradley Bergeron. Conrad Birdie's costumes on Nicholas Morrett's frame did not suggest a pop idol.

I was concerned with the amount of lackluster choreography in act one, particularly a solo for Denise Arribas at the train station that didn't add anything to the story. Choreographer Ricardo Aponte was fully redeemed in act two, though, with a rousing and original Shriner's ballet and a knock-out rendition of "Spanish Rose." It's the strong ending of the show that let me leave the production with an overall feel-good impression.

Voices are fine overall, with the MacAfee family being the vocal standouts. Chase McGrath does a nice, professional job as Randolph, and Kelly Fletcher anchors the family as a warm, matronly mother. Charlie Bradshaw, as the father, and Hannah Celeste Wilkinson, as the daughter, are given the best lines to speak and do a creditable job of getting them across.

For my money, though, the standout is Denise Arribas as Rosie Alvarez. She and Bradley Bergeron, as Albert, have an easy, believable chemistry, and she holds her own against Albert's overbearing mother (Cathy Hall Payne) and interloper Gloria Rasputin (Ashley Hagler), both of whom add choice moments to the show. It's Ms. Arribas that I'll remember from this entertaining production. Others, I'm sure, will prefer Bradley Bergeron or someone else in the cast. There are several strong performers in the cast.

The show would be even more entertaining if the entire teen ensemble would be like Debra Sue (uncredited in the program) and remember to smile and remain engaged in the action; if the cast doesn't seem to be having a consistently good time, why should the audience? [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
So what did you think of Birdie? by Okely Dokely
I am surprised at your notable omission of Nick Morrett's performance as the title character. You don't mention him at all, except to say his costumes weren't flattering. Did you think he sucked the big one and were trying to be diplomatic by not mentioning him, or was there another reason you left him out?
Birdie Was by playgoer
Nicholas Morrett didn't make much of an impression on me in "Bye Bye Birdie". I love his voice and his versatility (he also played a Shriner in the production), but Birdie is written as a fairly passive character in his book scenes, and Mr. Morrett's portrayal tended to be too subtle to make him stand out from the background. I actually left the performance trying to recall if "A Lot of Livin' to Do" had been sung at all.
Deja vu All Over Again
by Mama Alma
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
4.0
Ah, the Fifties. Sexual repression, racial segregation and polio. Oops! Did I say that out loud? These practical concerns are mostly absent from the frothy concoction that is Stage Door's production of Bye Bye Birdie. It's a mad romp through the Fabulous Fifties, taking as its touchstone the real-life Elvis Presley's induction into the army in 1958. The Elvis standin here is the eponymous Conrad Birdie, superbly played by Nicholas Morrett. Morrett is especially effective in the musical numbers, the best, in my opinion, being "Honestly Sincere" during which an hysterical Kathleen McCook, as the mayor's middle-aged wife, swoons prettily, ass over teakettle. Kudos to Jim Alford's costuming for all the frilly petticoats.

McCook is only one of a conglomerate of familiar actors taking a back seat to a gaggle of talented teenagers that director Robert Egizio brought in to play . . . well, the teenagers. More about them in a bit. Especially notable among the adults are Charlie Bradshaw as Mr. MacAfee, performing the classic "Kids." It's a tall order, since that song is so iconically linked to the lovely and lovable Paul Lynde, but Bradshaw puts his own stamp on it. Cathe Hall Payne is adorable as the overbearing mother, Mae Peterson, a walking punch line to all those jokes about how many of her ilk it would take to screw in a light bulb. (Answer: None. "Don't worry about me darling; I'm fine sitting here in the dark.") Denise Arribas is fantastic as the fiery, sultry, completely competent but altogether frustrated Rosie Alvarez. She sings, she dances, she looks great in a shirtwaist. The surprise, for me, was Brad Bergeron as Albert Peterson. I had initially thought he'd play Birdie. Bergeron excels in larger than life roles (Lancelot in Camelot, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, the police sergeant in Pirates of Penzance, etc.). But his Albert comes across as an overgrown kid, a perpetual adolescent, unable to grow up/settle down/commit to his Rosie. It's an interesting twist but it worked for me (plus the height differential between Bergeron and Arribas is kinda cute).

But the real fun (and crowd favorites) for the evening were the kids. (Sorry, Mr. MacAfee, they were pretty near perfect.) Group numbers, fueled by Ricardo Aponte's robust choreography and Linda Uzelac's excellent musical direction, were great successes. Hannah Wilkinson as Kim MacAfee has a clear sweet voice and a saucy attitude nicely suited to play a worldly young woman on the brink of adulthood (who still likes to dress in her tomboy clothes). Keenan Rogers is sweetly confused as Kim's new steady, Hugo Peabody, as he tries to navigate the new deal of going steady while trying to keep his cred with the guys AND compete with a rock and roll star. A real standout was Sam Lauten as Harvey Johnson. Watch for his moment in the sun during "The Telephone Hour" (a song still rattling around in my head) while he tries to make a date with first Penelope, and then Debra Sue. Last, but not least, is Chase McGrath as the youngest MacAfee, Randolph. Some of his movements feel a little studied, but he is precious nonetheless in a demanding role.

Bye Bye Birdie appears to be all froth and feel good happy times up front, but it's actually a sneaky satire of our view of domesticity in the Fifties. Note the solid Kelly Fletcher, as Mrs. MacAfee, standing patiently by, waiting to do her man's bidding. Note Rosie, Albert's long-suffering assistant, patiently waiting for him to get a clue and snip his Mama's apron strings. But note, too, how Mr. MacAfee has to follow his wife's schedule (she runs the house). Rosie thinks up a way for Albert to save his company. She's actually the engine – he's the caboose. Yet ironically, when Rosie finally gives up on Albert and strikes out on her own (she decides to drown her sorrows in a bar, where they try to throw her out because of her gender, but she infiltrates the back room "secret society" meeting) she quickly becomes a little more attractive than she bargained for and ends up running from the attention she sought. George Deavours and Al Dollar are among the ensemble backing up the melancholy but thoroughly delightful "Baby, Talk to Me" in which Rosie asserts her independence from Albert.

Conrad's songs, notably "Honestly Sincere" and "One Last Kiss" are hardly more than one phrase repeated over and over to a lot of hip swiveling. And the final comedown for this teenage sex/rock god (he's coming to the heartland of America to kiss a girl before he "goes to war" – could he be any more macho?) is that he has to escape town dressed in women's clothes ("widow's weeds"). Upon reflection, the entire musical invites the audience to "look behind the curtain" at what was actually going on in the Fifties, which, to judge by Rosie's tour de force "Spanish Rose," was a time not very unlike our own.




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