Wednesday, August 25, 2010

REV: Jacquie's Bye Bye Birdie Review

“Bye Bye Birdie” A Hit
A CURRENT REVIEW by Jacquie Bovée

Playhouse 2000's rendition of “Bye Bye Birdie" is a must see ticket! The direction is excellent, the cast is fabulous, the set is terrific, the songs are outstanding, the orchestra's top notch and the book is hilarious.

The Tony Award winning musical hit “Bye Bye Birdie,” with book by Michael Stewart, lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse, opened on Broadway in April of 1960 and ran 607 performances. It opened on the West End in 1961, and in 1981 Donald O’Connor opened in the sequel “Bring Back Birdie.” The Movie, with Dick Van Dyke, came out in 1963 and the TV adaption aired in 1995.

It is said that the idea for “Bye Bye Birdie” was planted in the mind of Stewart on September 22, 1958 when the drafted rock-and-roll idol Elvis Presley boarded a ship for Germany. Amid a media circus, Presley gave a specially selected WAC his last kiss.

Director Jeffery Brown cast, of almost 3 dozen, is crammed full of talent, and Brown knows just how to stage them. The production number “Honestly Sincere,” pictured above, is absolutely hilarious.

Jeff Cunningham’s Scene Designs are, as always, inventive, functional and a feast for the eyes. Cunningham has even put Musical Director Mike Kasberg and his orchestra, bandstand and all, on stage.

Jeremy Sosa does a top-notch job as Albert, Birdie’s manager (the role made famous by Dick Van Dyke). Albert’s secretary, Rosie O’Leary is beautifully portrayed by Emily Philips. And Carol Maryan is a hoot as Albert’s possessive mother Mae.

Max Smith is awesome as Conrad Birdie and Kim MacAfee (Brandi Neeley), his Sweet Apple, Ohio pick for the last kiss, is terrific. And the lanky Zach Salcich turns in a delightful rendition of Kim’s jealous boyfriend Hugh.

Jerry Mertz’s portrayal of Mr. MacAfee is excellent and you’ll laugh your head off watching him in the “Last Kiss,” the scene on the Ed Sullivan show. The rest of the MacAfee family, Kim’s mother (Krista Turner) and little brother Randolph (Jack interpretation), play their roles perfectly.

Community Theatre veteran and character actress, Joan Bryson, turns in a hysterical bit as Phyllis. Play2k volunteer and player Neill Day does a lot with his small part, and Dowell Mudry is great and certainly memorable as does Conrad's rock n’ roll guitarist.

Teens, Harvey Johnson, Alice and the Sad Girl are exceptionally well played by Jimmy Abbatiello, Emily Eubank and Reilly Downes. As are Suzie, Nancy, Penelope and Deborah Sue by Emily Mudry, Megan Simon, Jeska Sanchez and Andrea DeLeon.

Nicholas Boland’s lighting design is outstanding and the costumes created by Deb Phillips and Carole Weatherred are nifty.

Play2K has not only done two huge musicals this summer, they have done a phenomenal job. First with the Broadway class “Sound of Music” and now with a sensational interpretation of “Bye Bye Bridie.” Kudos to the Cunninghams - their dazzling array of volunteer performers, their formidable crews and amazingly talented directors, musicians, costume designers, choreographers and Play2k Academy students.

See you at the theatre!

From the left; Zach Salcich (Hugo), Brandi Neely (Kim) Reilly Downes (Sad Girl) Jerry Mertz (Mr. MacAfee) Max Smith (Conrad Birdie), Krista Turner (Mrs. MacAfee), Aaron James (Lee), Joan Bryson (Phyllis), Neill Day (Policeman) and Jimmy Abbatiello (Harvey). By the time this production number is over, you’re sure to agree “it” was worth the price of the ticket. - Photo by Jacquie Bovée

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