River Ridge musical theater students present 'Bye Bye Birdie'

It's back to the '50s at River Ridge High School when musical theater students do the Tony Award-winning musical Bye Bye Birdie, a send-up of the teen angst that erupted when a superstar singer was drafted into the Army in 1958.

Based on the genuine (over)reaction America had when rocker Elvis Presley was inducted into the armed services and shipped overseas, Bye Bye Birdie re-creates the innocent days of early rock 'n' roll, bobby soxers and exasperated parents who didn't understand any of it.

"We have some really good voices in this show," said Diana Rogers, a Broadway veteran (Les Miserables), current drama teacher and director of the show. "They're a lot of 'newbies,' but they're really working hard."

Although the story revolves around the upcoming departure of Birdie (Josh Weber), it's more the story of his agent/songwriter Albert Peterson (Micah Laird, Barnaby in Richey Suncoast Theater's Hello, Dolly), who sees his best client slipping away from him.

Albert's secretary and sweetheart Rosie Alvarez (Jessica DeMeo) come up with the idea for a publicity bonanza: have Birdie release one last big record, One Last Kiss, and premiere it on the top TV show of the day, The Ed Sullivan Show, just before he leaves the States.

To sweeten the deal, Birdie will give that last kiss to one lucky girl who wins a fan club contest.

The winner is 15-year-old Kim MacAfee (Rosemary Sandifer) in Sweet Apple, Ohio, whose parents Harry (Jon Timpanelli) and Doris (Nicole Balsamo) are none too happy about the idea and whose boyfriend Hugo (John Michael West) is consumed with jealously.

Birdie moves in with the MacAfees in the days before the really big show and upsets the entire household.

Meanwhile, Albert's overbearing mother Mae Peterson (Barbara Torres) is determined to break up her son's romance with Rosie.

So Rosie and Hugo get together to ruin the upcoming One Last Kiss.

What they do upsets everyone, so Rosie and Kim both decide to break up with Albert and Hugo, asking What Did I Ever See in Him?

That's when all the kids in Sweet Apple go dancing crazy, Rosie goes wild at a Shriners' convention, the police get involved and mayhem ensues.

The Broadway version won the Tony Award for Best Musical; Dick Van Dyke, who played Kim's dad, Harry, won a Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Musical; and Gower Champion won Tonys for Best Choreography and Best Direction of a Musical.

The 1963 film shifted the focus from Albert and Rosie to young Kim, played by movie newcomer Ann-Margret, who went on to become a superstar and to play opposite the inspiration for Birdie, Elvis Presley, in Viva Las Vegas in 1964.

The movie dropped six of the Broadway show's songs, but added the title song Bye Bye Birdie, which Ms. Rogers has added to her troupe's version of the stage show. Professional musician Marvin Lovett will conduct the orchestra and is musical director, and Lynn Vairo is choreographer.

If you go

What: Bye Bye Birdie, a musical

Where: Center for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 30 and 2 p.m. Oct. 31 and Nov. 1

Tickets: $5, opening seating. Call (727) 534-4997

River Ridge musical theater students present 'Bye Bye Birdie' 10/22/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2009 8:35pm]

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