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Bye Bye Birdie, Mount Vernon High School, Alexandria, Virginia, April 28, 2018

Emma Shacochis

Oakton High School


Say bye bye to your troubles and hello to the fifties, where joy is in full swing! Mount Vernon High School's "Bye Bye Birdie", with a delightful cast and creative design, will make it impossible not to put on a happy face!


"Bye Bye Birdie", with book by Michael Stewart, lyrics by Lee Adams, and music by Charles Strouse, debuted on Broadway in 1960, winning four Tony Awards including Best Musical. The musical had a Broadway revival in 2009, toured the U.S., and was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated 1963 film starring Dick Van Dyke.


Inspired by the real-life army draft of Elvis Presley, "Bye Bye Birdie" follows songwriter Albert Peterson and his secretary girlfriend, Rose Alvarez, as they attempt to conduct a send-off for the recently enlisted, beloved rock-and-roll artist Conrad Birdie. As they plan for Conrad to give "One Last Kiss" to small town teen Kim MacAfee, every obstacle seems to spring up, from a frenzied teenage rebellion, guilting parents, and strained relationships all over town - will Albert ever be able to say bye to Birdie and hello to Rosie?


As Rosie Alvarez, Maggie McClelland shines, whether playing sharp or longing. McClelland shows depth during a longing solo waltz in "One Boy", as well as when encouraging Albert (Samuel Zarek) to marry her in "An English Teacher". However, McClelland's dry wit is a triumph to watch, particularly as she smugly boasts her Hispanic heritage to Albert's mother, Mae (Monica Cáceres Chacon), in the wonderful number "Spanish Rose".


Kim MacAfee, president of Sweet Apple's Conrad Birdie Fan Club, is played with winsome innocence by Keeley Bryant. Bryant excellently manages the humor of Kim's belief that she's entirely grown-up at fifteen in "How Lovely to Be A Woman"; her sweet, high voice soars as she professes her devotion to her boyfriend Hugo (Donovan Fisher) in "One Boy".


However, the entire town remains infatuated with Conrad Birdie (Ttendo Williams) - and it's easy to see why. Williams is excellent as Birdie, with a self-confident strut matching his arrogance. Birdie's serenade to Sweet Apple, "Honestly Sincere", is elevated by Williams' smooth voice and suave choreography.


Additional standouts include Mauro Gomez as Mr. MacAfee, a sweater-vest adorned, old-fashioned father whose energy and confidence make his frustrated number, "Kids", a hit; and Sydney Osei Tutu's Ursula, an enthusiastic Birdie fan, played with giddiness and a perfect, frequent shriek.


The chorus of teenagers, all proud members of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club, overflow with energy throughout their endless verses of "We Love You Conrad". Exuding charm as they dance through the aisles, the teens create beautiful harmonies in "The Telephone Hour", as well as when they unite in Beatlemania-esque screams at the very mention of Birdie's name.


Tania Romero Gonzalez's set design is brilliant - a trio of three-sided, revolving blocks make for incredibly efficient set changes, with backdrops of colorful sheet music, a brick-lined train station, and the MacAfee's cheerfully-hued house. The costumes (Jared Diallo, et al.), especially the pastel-tinted skirts and ascots worn by the Sweet Apple teens, match the cheerful tone of the show and are easy to dance in - an excellent addition, because nearly every scene features the company united in dance. The sublime choreography (Noah Schofield, et al.) fits seamlessly into every number, as the company marches and jives through "Put on a Happy Face" and "A Lot of Livin' To Do".


From its outstanding cast to the radiant choreography, Mount Vernon High School's ebullient production of "Bye Bye Birdie" is one honestly sincere good time!

Elizabeth Waldt

West Springfield High School


I, being of sound mind and body, do hereby promise to be loyal, courteous, steadfast, and true, to Conrad Birdie and the United States of America-- both indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all! Mount Vernon High School's rocking production of Bye Bye Birdie had everyone joining the Conrad Birdie Fan Club.


Written in 1958, Bye Bye Birdie was originally a contemporary piece, poking fun at the nation's obsession with the King of Rock, Elvis Presley. The musical debuted on Broadway in 1960, receiving buzz across the nation. The successful show was later turned into a film production, starring Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh. The Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of Conrad Birdie, rock and roll star, as he tries to give the world "One Last Kiss" before leaving for his drafted service in the Army.


Portraying Birdie's puppeteering manager, Albert Peterson, was actor Samuel Zarek, whose mature persona perfectly contrasted the gaggles of screaming teenagers. Zarek demonstrated careful chemistry with everyone on stage, formulating diverse relationships with each character. By Peterson's side was his secretary of eight years, Rose Alvarez, enthusiastically portrayed by Maggie McClelland. Rose commandeered the stage with her confident, sassy presence. McClelland revealed the raw emotion of her character as she belted through numbers such as, "An English Teacher" and "Spanish Rose." Together, Albert and Rose portrayed a tension and understanding that revealed their true feelings for each other.


As Conrad Birdie, Ttendo Williams literally brought the house down as girls and women alike fainted listening to him sing "Honestly Sincere." Williams owned the stage as he swaggered around, stealing hearts. Playing Kim MacAfee, an avid member of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club, was actress Keeley Bryant. Bryant showed off her vocal talent and range throughout the entire production, striking awe-worthy notes in songs like, "How Lovely to Be a Woman." Her innocence and awkwardness were the perfect foil to Conrad's cool persona, creating an interesting dynamic on stage.


An upbeat, dynamic ensemble made the production even more energetic and fun. Adorned with colorful skirts and saddle shoes, the Conrad Birdie Fan Club moved flawlessly together, as if they were best friends. The use of the entire auditorium integrated the audience into the performance, making the show interactive for everyone. 


The technical aspects of Bye Bye Birdie perfectly complemented the performance, making for one cohesive show. Their colorful, lively set served several purposes as they rotated walls to symbolize new scenery. The sound crew, headed by Loki Willis, made sure that every scene was crisp and clear. The student-created choreography added authenticity to the numbers, as dancers broke out in period-appropriate dance moves. Organized dance breaks added an adorable element to musical numbers, incorporating the entire cast.


Bye Bye Birdie is a lovable comedy filled with music, dance, and absurdity. Mount Vernon High School's performance had the audience rocking out all night long.


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