Monday, June 18, 2012
Wilmington Drama League Brings Back Birdie!
The Wilmington Drama League’s The Chrysalis Players (the League’s youth program) has brought Birdie back! Most people know the story of Bye Bye Birdie (BBB). BBB has been a popular musical for both high schools and community theater companies to produce since the 60s. However, for the few who haven’t appeared in it or haven’t seen a stage production or a film adaptation, the BBB’s story is very basic and a little outdated. But, it’s a perfect show for young adults to explore and stage.
Set in the late 1950s, Conrad Birdie (Jeff Gorcyca) , an Elvis Presley-like signer, is being drafted to fight in the war. Birdie’s New York agent/songwriter Albert Peterson (Adam J. Wahlberg) is convinced by his secretary and sometime girlfriend, Rose Alvarez (Ashley Butler), to give up the music business, go to college and become an English teacher. Before he’s able to give up his family’s music business, Almaelou, he must make $50,000 to afford his tuition and his new life in academia. Rose comes up a genius idea; Albert will write a song for Birdie, “One Last Kiss,” to not only perform on television, but to also serenade one of his lucky female fans - 15 year-old Kim MacAfee (Erin Foltz) of Sweet Apple, Ohio - and give her his “last kiss” before the whole nation. Of course this plan will propel the song into the hit-making stratosphere; making enough money for Albert to enter the next chapter of his life – husband and English teacher. Albert, Rose, Birdie, and Mae (Laurene Eckbold), Albert’s overbearing mother who despises the thought of Albert dissolving the family business and marrying Rose, travel to Kim’s hometown where comic mayhem ensues.
BBB is as American as apple pie and baseball. The show features some of the most identifiable Broadway tunes including, “The Telephone Hour” and “A Lot of Livin’ to Do.” It’s hard not to get sucked into Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’ playful score, as well as the love story between Albert and Rose and Kim and her jealous steady, Hugo Peabody (Jameson May); even if it’s the standard fair – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl at the end.
Tina Sheing’s boisterous production boasts enthusiastic performances by its young cast. Mr. Wahlberg (one of the few adults) is a standout as Albert. His sinuous body is perfect for the slapstick-physical humor required for the part (Dick Van Dyke originated the role in the Broadway production). He’s also a fantastic singer with great charisma. I particularly loved his scenes with Eckbold. They have perfectly captured the relationship between a mother who “can’t cut the apron strings” and a son who’s not sure if he’s ready to have them “clipped!”
Tommy Fisher’s inspired choreography keeps the large cast in step with the popular dances of the period. At times I thought some of the audience members were going to jump up and dance with the actors!
Bye Bye Birdie runs through June 24th. For information and tickets, visit www.wilmingtondramaleague.org or call 302.764.3396.
Posted by Charles "Ebbie" Alfree III