Bye Bye Birdie
Book by Michael Stewart
Lyrics by Lee Adams
Music by Charles Strouse
Directed and Choreographed by Eric Yow
Musical Direction by Jamie Leigh Bartschi
Staring Teixeira, Madison Gomez, and Ryan Ball
Few of us are old enough recall America’s great hip grinding teenage heartthrob crisis. As rock and roll came to life in the 1950’s, its biggest star was grinding his hips and melting the hearts of young women. That’s Early Elvis, before all the sequins. Tonight he’s channeled by the soon to be famous Conrad Birdie (Chase Walker). But it’s his agent Albert (Teixeira) we care about, Conrad is a distant prima donna and generally as interesting as last week’s pop song. That’s a shame; I liked Mr. Walker, and paraphrasing Jessica Rabbit, “I’m not boring, I’m just written that way.” Our McGuffin comes from Conrad draft notice. In the 1950’s the government could pull you out of society and send you off to shoot at people you didn’t even know in distant hell holes.
Albert want one last publicity stunt, so his secretary / fiancé / Girl Friday Rose “Rosie” Alvarez (Gomez) gets a brilliant idea: pick a random fan club member, and have Conrad kiss her good bye before he heads off to Paris Island. We spend most of our time watching the couple fight like they’ve already been wed for a decade. Albert can’t handle commitments while Rose feels her eggs aging past there “impregnate by date.” Add Albert’s comically nasty Jewish Mother Mae (Christine Hicks) and her uber kosher rants about Rose, and it’s a classic screwball comedy, loaded with laughs. There’s even a “B” Couple: young Hugo Peabody’s (Ryan Ball) feathers get ruffled when his steady Kim (Samantha Keimach) gets caught up in Birdiemania. My favorite supporting actor is the balding Harry (Mark Bartschi) as Kim’s Dad. His role is to ignore Birdie’s mania as best he can, and he goes a blistering rant about rock and roll that needs an award all its own.
I saw this a few years ago, at another company’s space, and there it felt a bit dated. This production escapes that trouble and gives an excuse for high energy fun with no regard to decade or century. And remember: “It’s only rock and roll, and we like it.”