Theatre Mirror Reviews - "BYE BYE BIRDIE"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Hendricken's fall show this year is "Bye Bye Birdie", the Tony Award winning 1960's inspired Rock and Roll inspired musical parody of what happens to a small Midwestern community when an Elvis-like singing sensation swings by town for one last kiss before entering the service. Originally titled "Let's Go Steady", the satire on American society is set in 1958. The story was inspired by the phenomenon of popular singer Elvis Presley and his draft notice into the army in 1957. The singer Conrad Birdie comes to a small town to give a girl "One Last Kiss" before he enters the army. The original production was a Tony Award winning success that spawned a London production, several major revivals, a sequel called "Bring Back Birdie", a 1963 movie and a 1995 TV production. The original show opened on April 14, 1960 and ran for 607 performances. It starred Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde, Dick Gauthier, Susan Watson and Kay Medford. Director Richie Sylvia supplies fantastic direction and recreates the nostalgia of the 1950's. Choreographer Teresa Pearson creates some potent dance numbers with superb musical direction by Sean Donnelly.

Richie has an eye for comic situations and brings out the best in his cast. Sean does a splendid job with the music and the vocals of the cast. Teresa's excellent dance numbers include a telephone dance, rock and roll dances for "Sincere" and "A Lot of Living" with standout dances for Conrad Birdie. Leading this cast as Albert Peterson, the songwriter and Birdie's agent, is Stephen Lee. He displays his strong singing voice and dancing prowess with a soft shoe in "Put on a Happy Face" with the girls and in "Rosie" with Kate Fitzgerald as Rosie. He and she lead the chorus in "All American Boy.'' His "Baby, Talk to Me" number shines with the male quartet of Ryan Farrell, Alex LeBlanc, Luis DeUgarte and Michael Breen, backing him up with beautiful harmonies. He handles this huge role with energy and finesse. I first reviewed him as Arvide in "Guys and Dolls" his freshman year. Kate Fitzgerald plays Albert's long suffering girl friend, Rosie. She is dynamic in this role. Kate handles her many solos splendidly including "An English Teacher" where she encourages him to pursue his true calling, "One Boy" when she admits her love for him as well as "What Did I Ever See in Him?" when she decides to leave him and the riveting "Spanish Rose" when she finally declares her independence from Albert's overbearing mother, Mae Peterson. They have topnotch chemistry with each other. I last reviewed Kate as Red Riding Hood in "Into the Woods" and Stephen played one of the narrators in it.

Luke Stirpe plays Conrad Birdie excellently. He brings a lot of charisma and sex appeal to the role. His first entrance into the Macaffee house is a sight to behold as he makes all the women on stage and in the audience swoon. also displays a fantastic singing voice in "One Last Kiss." He wears a yellow lame suit for his first song "Sincere" which is hilarious as he does pelvic thrusts and hip swivels, making the crowd onstage faint. Clad in a suit jacket for "One Last Kiss" with a snarl and curled lip and stops the show at the end of Act 1. He also leads the teen chorus wearing tight jeans and a leather jacket in "A Lot of Living to Do" where they show they singing and dancing prowess. Luke shines as this womanizing rock star. One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Sophie Gregory as Mae Peterson. She has the funniest lines in the show and makes every one of them count. Sophie is a hoot as she berates Albert and insults Rosie constantly. Mae heaps a guilt trip on Albert, ending up in a garbage can at the end of one scene. Sophie is clad in a fur jacket during the show as she drives the audience into hysterics at her wacky behavior and gangbusters entrances.

Abby McMahon plays Kim Macaffee who is to be kissed before Conrad is inducted into the army. She is lovely and has a beautiful soprano voice which soars in "How Lovely to Be a Woman", the pretty "One Boy", where she professes her love for Hugo but swoons at the mention of Conrad's name, and the angry number "What Did I Ever See in Him?" with Rosie. Another comic performer is Giancarlo Gentili as Harry Macaffee. His slow burns and facial expressions and line deliveries are hilarious. His hamming it up for the live TV number and mugging for the TV camera are laugh out loud moments. Giancarlo also sings the lead in the Ed Sullivan number and stops the show in the second act with his "Kids" number. The choral of these two numbers is awesome. Michaela Vieira who has a strong soprano voice plays his wife, Doris very well as does Brendan Lawrence as Randolph, Kim's kid brother. The four Macaffees backed by the chorus shine in the "Ed Sullivan" number with some of the best harmonies of the night.

Other scene stealers include Nicholas Bullock as Hugo, Lily Brewster as Ursula, Maddie Dutilly as Gloria Rasputin and Alex LeBlanc as Harvey Johnson. Nicholas plays Kim's jilted boyfriend who pretends to get drunk and punches Birdie on Live TV. Lily is hysterical as the loud mouth cheerleader who welcomes Birdie to town by singing "We Love you, Conrad" over and over again. Maddie plays the vamp who Mae hired to lure Albert away from Gloria. She does a comic dance even though she proclaims she doesn't dance and ends up doing a split. Alex is a hoot as the nerdy, Harvey who leads the teens in the "Telephone Hour" number. His high squeaky voice is hilarious in this number. So for a look back at the carefree days of the 1950's, be sure to catch this marvelous rendition of this fun filled musical, "Bye Bye Birdie" to witness strong acting, singing and dancing from these talented high school students.

BYE BYE BIRDIE (29 November to 4 December )
Bishop Hendricken Theatre, 2615 Warwick Ave, Warwick, RI
1(401)739-3450 or

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