Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review of Bye Bye Birdie at Drury Lane Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Bye Bye Birdie. The book was by Michael Stewart. The music was by Charles Strouse and the lyrics were by Lee Adams. It was directed and choreographed by Tammy Mader with music direction by Alan Bukowiecki. It was about this town called Sweet Apple, Ohio where there were a bunch of teenage girls who were superfans of the rock and roll singer Conrad Birdie (Jason Michael Evans) and he had to go to that town and kiss one girl--Kim MacAfee (Leryn Turlington)--as a goodbye kiss because he was going off to be in the war. But Conrad Birdie's manager Albert Peterson (Matt Crowle) is in a lot of trouble because his biggest deal is with Conrad Birdie. And also his secretary Rose Alvarez (Michelle Aravena) is in love with him. He is in love with her too, but everything is hard for them because of all the work they have to do and because of his mother (Catherine Smitko) who doesn't like Rose. This was a cute musical and I liked the dancing and the performances. It is not my favorite musical of all time, but I think they did a really good job with what they had.

I really liked the tap dancing number, "Put on a Happy Face." There is one girl (Isabelle Roberts, Maya Lou Hlava) who is very sad because Conrad Birdie is going away. And Albert tries to cheer her up with a big tap dancing number. I thought that scene was really fun. Before he was a little business-y, so it is a different side of him which is fun. Everything was so coordinated and it was my favorite dance number. Sometimes Albert Peterson doesn't realize that even if he does lose Conrad Birdie everything will be okay because he has something else he can do that might make him even happier: becoming a teacher. Rose sings a song ("An English Teacher") at the very beginning about how he could have become a teacher. I thought that was a really good song. I loved the music and the lyrics were very clever. I can't get it out of my head. I thought it was kind of funny that Rose was talking to the guy in the rock and roll business with a really successful client and saying, "I wish you were an English teacher." Instead of a teacher wanting to be a music producer, the music producer wants to be an English teacher.

Rose becomes very angry with Albert because he seems to care more about Conrad Birdie than her. So she decides to go away in a "scandalous" red dress cut up the side and calls herself Spanish Rose, even though she is from beautiful, exotic Pittsburgh. She starts drinking at a tiki bar and trying to find cute boys. But she is in a small town in Ohio, so there's not a lot to choose from. So she ends up going into a Shriners' meeting and tries to dance, but then none of them seem to like that very much, so she goes under the table and people keep getting pulled down under the table. I thought it was hilarious to see them reaching up to the surface like they were in a horror movie. It made me laugh so hard. Rose was my favorite character because she was so sassy. If she wants something, she is going to get it most of the time.

I liked this show, but I did have some problems with it too. I wasn't a huge fan of the overture, but that is not the Drury Lane production's fault. One of the first things you hear is teenage girls scream-singing "We love you, Conrad" in high-pitched squeaky voices. I didn't feel like it was a great way to open up a show. All the teenagers repeat the song throughout the entire show, which was another thing I wasn't a huge fan of. This musical depicts teenage girls as screaming and annoying and only caring about boys. And that is not what all teenage girls are like. They could have had maybe one of all the teenagers not be a crazy person who only cares about boys. And the entire MacAfee family (Brianna Borger, George Andrew Wolff, Rowan Moxley and Cam Ezell) seemed so self-involved that you kind of couldn't like any of the characters in that family. Everyone in the musical except maybe Albert and Rose are stereotypes, which shows you that they are trying to make fun of midwestern people and teenagers and lots of stuff that is in lots of people's everyday life. It is okay to make fun of things, but it is more interesting to me if the characters are less completely fake and the stereotypes have more elements that are like real life so it is a little more relatable.

People who would like this show are people who like tap dancing, superfans, and sassy Spanish Roses from Pittsburgh. I loved the dancing and the hilarious musical numbers. I enjoyed it.

Photos: Brett Beiner

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