Bye Bye Birdie Rocks Point Boro at Spring Musical Performances
From the depths of 19th century London’s seedy underbelly and into the grisly shop of murderous barber Sweeney Todd to pre-revolutionary Russia and the plight of poor milkman, Tevye and his machinations to preserve his family’s religious customs in the face of societal and political opposition, Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Performing Arts Department has garnered a well-deserved reputation for taking their audiences on unforgettable journeys during the performances of their annual spring musical.
Albeit lighter in tone, yet just as exceptional, was the Department’s most recent production, Bye Bye Birdie, which wrapped up its four-night run on March 24th. Washing away the dark and serious undertones of the past years‘ productions in glorious technicolor, Bye Bye Birdie transported audiences to 1950’s Sweet Apple, Ohio, rocking and rolling the high school’s Loren Donley Center for Performing Arts, performing the beloved musical-comedy to near sold-out audiences.
Based on the fallout surrounding Elvis Presley’s draft into the US Army, Bye Bye Birdie follows the story of rockstar Conrad Birdie’s visit to Sweet Apple, a public-relations stint preceding his entrance to the Army, and the affects his appearance has on the residents of the small town.
The plays opens at Almaelou Records in the office of Birdie’s not-so-successful agent and songwriter, mama’s boy Albert Peterson, played here with playful sincerity by junior Andrew Moore, who is in a panic about Birdie’s impending draft. Peterson’s frustrated secretary and beleaguered love-interest, Rosie Alvarez, [senior Hope Roselle] seizes the opportunity to try to convince Albert to pursue a career as “An English Teacher“. Her threats to leave him, impel Albert to promise to absolve the business once Conrad’s debt is paid, but then backtracks, causing Rosie to take matters into her own hands, selecting Conrad Birdie Fan Club #2748’s President and Recording Secretary, Kim MacAfee from the rolodex, as the centerpiece of a Conrad Birdie promotional campaign entitled “One Last Kiss“ which will include a song, a televised performance and a record to send Birdie off to the Army and get Albert out of the red. A hopeful Rosie reprises “An English Teacher“ as attempts to inform Kim, are thwarted by busy phone lines as the teens of Sweet Apple are engaged in the gossipy “Telephone Hour“ spreading the news of Kim’s recent pinning by beau Hugo Peabody.
As Kim MacAfee, sophomore Dorothy Blomquist, in her first leading musical role, has ample opportunity to showcase her vocal talents, evident from her first solo performance, the ode to femininity “How Lovely to Be a Woman“, spurred by her new status as Hugo’s steady, the catalyst for her resignation from Conrad’s Fan Club.
As news spreads of Birdie’s draft, his teenage fans despair, leading to the performance of one of the production’s most well-known songs, “Put On A Happy Face“, Andrew Moore at his best in a stage-consuming song and dance routine for which he is accompanied by a chorus of crying and tap-dancing teenage girls.
Birdie-mania sweeps the town of Sweet Apple as the residents await the arrival of their idol, Conrad Birdie, 17-year-old Christopher Doblovosky in the role he was seemingly born to play.
Clad in leather, with hair coiffed in an impressive pompadour, Doblovosky’s Birdie’s gyrations through the town square are met with a mixture of hysteria and jealousy as the residents react to Birdie’s invasion into their small town lives.
The one town resident who, perhaps, finds Birdie’s visit most objectionable is Hugo [Benjamin Norkus], Kim’s new boyfriend, who feels slighted by Kim’s lack of attention, a feeling she tries to alleviate in the sweet and affirming, “One Boy“, a song reprised by Rosie.
The other main man is Kim’s life, her father Harry, a hilariously uptight Evan Pearce, shares Hugo’s less-than-positive opinion of Conrad Birdie, at least until he discovers he will also appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, as a part of Conrad’s Farewell Special, in the tribute to television fame, “Hymn For A Sunday Evening“.
Scene One concludes with Birdie’s performing “One Last Kiss“ on the pastel stage of Sweet Apple’s Movie House for the Ed Sullivan Show, but as he leans in to give Kim the intended ‘one last kiss’, Hugo appears knocking out a bewildered Conrad to the ground.
Act Two opens with the spectre of jealousy haunting the relationships of the residents of Sweet Apple, causing Rosie and Kim leaving their respective relationships in “What Did I Ever See In Him?“.
Followed by Birdie and Kim’s lament “A Lot of Livin‘ To Do“, as the parents of Sweet Apple vent their frustrations toward the younger generation in “Kids“.
As Kim and Birdie run away to popular teen hangout, the Icehouse, Rosie has reached the end of her proverbial rope with commitment-phobe Albert, leading to one of the most hilarious scenes, as she infiltrates a Shriners' meeting, characterized as the Latin American temptress, “Spanish Rose”. As Albert attempts, in vain, to woo Rosie in “Baby Talk To Me”, she launches into an exotic dance, Hope Roselle at her best in the technically difficult routine, that literally brings the Shriners to their knees, requiring rescue by Albert and Hugo.
The trio set out to find Kim and Conrad, as Sweet Apple’s teenage population try to entice them with “Ice House Livin”, before the parents and police storm in, arresting Conrad.
Kim returns to Hugo while a disguised Conrad sneaks off to his Army induction, and Rose and Albert await their future in Iowa, where Albert has accepted a teaching position in the closing number, “Rosie”.
From the catchy “How Lovely To Be A Woman” and “One Last Kiss” to the provocative “Spanish Rose”, the songs of Bye Bye Birdie reflect a simpler time that was nonetheless controversial.
“Compared to what our children are exposed to today, it may seem silly that a few hip thrusts could change so much, but truly it did,” Director Ian Kearns wrote in his program notes. “Our own Conrad will do his best to have you singing and dancing your way out of the theater.”
And if the thunderous applause and raucous praise heard from the Loren Donley Center throughout Bye Bye Birdie’s series of performances are any indication, the play attained the desired affect.
As one special audience member opined, “the recent conclusion of Bye Bye Birdie has proven, once again, that Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Performing Arts Department’s productions have the ability to teleport audiences to any place in any time,” said Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith.
“In addition to the magnificent cast, crew and accompanying musicians, much of the success of the stage productions can be attributed to the parents and community for their overwhelming support, dedicating countless hours, their energy and resources to each production,” added the Superintendent. “Their support is vital to the legacy of success perpetuated by Point Pleasant Borough’s Performing Arts.”