Bishop Ireton High School
What do swooning girls, the sixties, and Sweet Apple, Ohio have in common? They’re all obsessed with the rock and roll heartthrob Conrad Birdie! Connelly School of the Holy Child’s production of "Bye Bye Birdie" was upbeat and fun, and the audience spent the show on the edge of their seats. The cast and crew of this all-girls school showcased their talent and dedication, and the work put into this show paid off.
"Bye Bye Birdie," written by Michael Stewart and first performed in 1960, opens with Conrad Birdie’s romantically involved managers, Albert Peterson and Rosie Alvarez, responding to Birdie being drafted for the war. As a publicity stunt, the two decide to randomly select a teen among thousands of American groupies and award her with a “send-off kiss” from the musical legend himself before he leaves to serve. Lucky Kim MacAfee and her increasingly jealous “steady” Hugo enter the story. The musical comedy follows these characters as they navigate their own personal romantic and familial relationships, as well as the growing tensions in their small Ohio town.
Albert (Jillian Geils) orchestrated many of the vaguely catastrophic events that happened onstage, but Geils’ witty and charming portrayal kept audience members following the character's storyline intently. Albert’s counterpart, Rosie (Kelsey Kley), was extremely strong onstage. Kley’s presence, authentic reactions and beautiful vocals added another dimension to an already impressive production. This duo worked well together, specifically in the scene where the two took on the press during Birdie’s interview (because he couldn’t be trusted to respond in a way that preserved his “Healthy, Normal, American Boy” image). Another character who significantly contributed to the show was Kim (Olivia Albury). Albury’s substantial vocal range wowed the audience, and she was able to accurately convey her character’s feelings for both Hugo and Birdie.
Another noteworthy character was Albert’s mom, Mrs. Peterson (Coco Lynch). Lynch excelled by developing her role into an overbearing, dramatic, and stubborn mother, and she used her impeccable comedic timing to get laughs throughout the show. The actress playing Mrs. Doris MacAfee (Elizabeth Lee) took the concept of a matronly figure in a completely different (but equally effective) direction. As the mother of Kim, Doris emphasized many traits of the typical suburban housewife, but Lee added a layer of comedy and believability to her performance as well. Another character who stood out was Ursula (Elizabeth Rothenberger), one of the die-hard Birdie groupies. Her attention to technique (especially in terms of diction) was very apparent, and her objectives and motives were clear every time she excitedly twirled her way onstage.
Holy Child’s production included many elements that directly contributed to the atmosphere of the show. A clear example of this was the Teen Girl ensemble. This cohesive entity was engaged and expressive throughout the show, and they helped to emphasize the small-town environment of which they were a part. Technical crews also contributed to this creation of Sweet Apple in the '60s. The set and set pieces accurately represented a variety of locations, and the MacAfee house precisely reflected the average American home of that time. The lighting, especially in the scene when the teens were partying during a night out on the town, helped reinforce this fictional world.
Connelly School of the Holy Child’s dedicated actresses, tech crews, and work ethic all contributed to their fun interpretation of the hit rock and roll musical Bye Bye Birdie. These talented students gave an unforgettable performance, and audience members left wanting to throw on poodle skirts of their very own.
Woodrow Wilson High School
Clothe ubiquitous intergenerational strife in colorful camisoles and cat-eye sunglasses, and you get “Bye Bye Birdie,” a hilarious parody of Elvis Presley’s Army draft in 1957 and the teenage hysteria that followed. Based in a time period recently rocked by the emergence of the prolific teen culture surrounding everything rock and roll, the Tony Award-winning musical comedy highlights the clear-eyed exuberance of kids and the well-meaning bewilderment of their parents. Connelly School of the Holy Child’s production was no different, with a plethora of student-produced technical elements transporting the audience to an era of original fan girls in poodle skirts where The Ed Sullivan Show reigns supreme.
Every generation has its rock stars, their cool rebellion driving millions of fans mad - but what of the adults tasked with protecting their reputation and making a profit? Conrad Birdie may be the hottest soldier since Joan of Arc, but he’s no match for Rose Alvarez, fiery secretary and mistreated girlfriend of Birdie’s agent, Albert Peterson. Played with outstanding confidence and emotional range by Kelsey Kley, Rose’s plight to settle down with Albert (and settle their debts through one last publicity stunt before Conrad is shipped away) drove the show from start to finish. As Albert, Jillian Geils proved a charismatic counterpart to Kley, exhibiting a strong command of her lower register in the classic number “Put on a Happy Face." Coco Lynch’s spry performance as the caring (if hyperbolic) Mrs. Peterson, brought surprises at every turn, proving that the path to an idyllic life as an English teacher’s wife never does run smooth.
When 15-year-old Kim MacAfee is chosen by Rosie and Albert to receive a final kiss from Conrad Birdie before he joins the army, word travels fast through Sweet Apple, Ohio, a small town where teen gossip stops phone traffic. Olivia Albury brought endearing energy to the role of recently “pinned” Kim, becoming a standout in the earnest solo “How Lovely to be a Woman” and ensemble numbers. In a spirited show of female empowerment, Kley and Albury lit up the stage in the Act Two opener “What Did I Ever See in Him?” highlighting Kley’s notable belt and breath support. As the eponymous Army inductee (Jake Kreindler) and his hip-swiveling overtook the town, Kim, her best friend Ursula (a clear-voiced and hilarious Elizabeth Rothenberger) and their fellow Conrad Birdie Fan Club members trailed happily in his swaggering footsteps. Much less pleased, however, were Mr. Harry MacAfee (Joe Bucheli) and Mrs. Doris MacAfee (Elizabeth Lee, particularly memorable in the charming number “Kids”), the half of Kim’s nuclear family being forced to realize the inexorably changing times.
The teenage hysteria of “Bye Bye Birdie” may have been limited to a love of heartthrob musicians, but the excitement of youth was infused in every number by the irresistible energy of the cohesive ensemble. From the ironic “A Healthy, Normal, American Boy” through endless reprises of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club song, to the lively “Telephone Hour,” ensemble numbers shone thanks to clean harmonies and the dynamic moves of Jayda Fomengia and other featured dancers. Their ponying in poodle skirts was accentuated by a creative lighting scheme (Maggie Titus and Bridget Connelly) and consistent sound design (Anne Slabaugh and Caroline Timothy). The student-constructed set proved versatile in its simplicity, allowing the efficient stage crew to transition between settings as disparate as Penn Station and the MacAfee household in seconds.
Connelly School of the Holy Child’s “Bye Bye Birdie” proved that nothing’s the matter with kids today - and we should all join the Conrad Birdie Fan Club!