Bye Bye Birdie Review - Hello, Laughter and Song

Originally conceived as “a happy teenager musical” and inspired by Elvis Presley’s draft notice in 1957, BYE BYE BIRDIE has grown by leaps and bounds. First staged on Broadway in 1960, the production won the Tony for the Best Musical in 1961 and has gone on to please audiences ever since then. From the book by Michael Stewart with lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse, BYE BYE BIRDIE was made into a film in 1963 starring Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh and eventually was adapted for television in 1995.

Robert Pieranunzi and Collete Peters - Photo by Angela Manke

This is the story of Conway Birdie (Adam Hollick), a word play on Conway Twitty, a well-known country music star and one of Presley’s rock ‘n roll rivals in the late 1950’s. Teen heart throb Birdie just received a draft notice, much to the chagrin of his music publisher Albert Peterson (Robert Pieranunzi). Then Albert’s secretary and main squeeze Rosie Alvarez (Colette Peters) has an idea. How about Birdie making a final recording and singing that song as he kisses one of his teenage fans and then goes off to war? That final recording should earn millions – and set up Peterson for life. More importantly, the windfall will allow Peterson to follow his dream of becoming an English teacher – and Rosie’s dream of becoming his wife after a long eight-year wait.

Bye Bye Birdie cast with Adam Hollick as Birdie - Photo by Angela Manke

The biggest obstacle to Rosie’s dream happens to be Albert’s mother Mae (Cindy Irwin Bullock), a manipulative little lady who obviously plans to keep junior in the nest forever. Handily played for every chuckle, Mae keep the comedy rolling even as she influences her son with an overbearing hand.

Cindy Irwin Bullock as Mama - Photo by Angela Manke

Off to Sweet Apple, Ohio, everyone goes to seek out their selection for Birdie’s last kiss, a 15-year-old fan named Kim MacAfee (Maryanne Burr). The whole town comes out for the festivities, with all the ladies, young and old, swooning to Birdie’s swaying hips. When a chance to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show surfaces for Kim’s dad Harry MacAfee (Danny Michaels) and the rest of the family, everybody is on board for the ride. Everybody – that is - except Hugo Peabody (Taylor Wesselman), who is Kim’s steady.

Taylor Wesselman and Maryanne Burr - Photo by Angela Manke

BYE BYE BIRDIE is a feel-good exuberant production encircled by all the energy of the adult/teen ensemble who shriek at just the right moments. Director Todd Nielsen has managed to capture that “50’s feeling,” along with all the teen craziness surrounding a real pop star. Musical director Steven Applegate keeps the songs coming with vitality and genuine oomph. Melodies abound, with songs like “Put on a Happy Face” and “Kids” adding to the fun. Choreographer Orlando Alexander does a terrific job of getting those dancing feet moving. Kudos to the entire production team for their efforts. All in all, this is a lively and exciting presentation and keeps faith with the original first staged in 1960.  It’s great family fare and should please anyone interested in seeing a great musical revival.

Tracy Ray Reynolds, Maryanne Burr, and Danny Michaels - Photo by Angela Manke

BYE BYE BIRDIE runs through April 1, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. On Thursday, March 2, there is an additional 8 p.m. performance. The Glendale Centre Theatre is located at 324 N. Orange Street, Glendale, CA 91203. Tickets range from $20 to $32. For information and reservations, call 818-244-8481 or go online.

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