Theatre Mirror Reviews -"Bye Bye Birdie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Bye Bye Birdie"

A Review by Tony Annicone

The second show of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's 44th season is "Bye Bye Birdie", the Tony Award-winning 1960's rock 'n' roll-inspired musical parody of what happens to a small Midwestern community when an Elvis-like singing sensation swings through town looking for one last kiss before entering the Army. 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 original production was a Tony winning success, it spawned a London production, several major revivals, a sequel, a 1963 film and a 1995 television production. The show has a book by Michael Stewart, lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse, 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. The singer, Conrad Birdie comes to a small town to give a girl "One Last Kiss" before he enters the service. Director Larry Sousa provides topnotch direction and recreates the nostalgia of America in the 1950's. From sets to period costumes this show sparkles and shines from start to finish with his talented cast. Larry's fantastic choreography, ably assisted by the talented Rachel Bertone, and the musical direction of Dan Rodriguez and Jeff Leonard add to the enjoyment of this show. The production values are kept high in this show and their expertise wins them a thunderous ovation at the close of the show.

Larry has a keen eye for comic situations and brings out the best in his cast. Some of his excellent dance numbers include soft shoe, a telephone dance, a hula hoop dance as well as rock and roll dances for "A Lot of Living" and "Birdie's songs, too. Dan and Jeff do a splendid job with the vocalists and orchestra for this show. The cast is lead by Jacob Sherburne as Albert Peterson, the songwriter and Conrad Birdie's agent. Jacob also shows off his dancing talent in two numbers, "Put on a Happy Face" with the teen girls and "Rosie". He and Carman also lead the chorus in "All American Boy". Larry has the girls use hula hoops in this number with Jacob and he does a soft shoe in the closing number. His "Baby Talk to Me" is splendid with the beautiful harmonies of the male quartet, David Carney, James Sheehan, Zach Austin Green and Christopher King. Carman Napier plays Rosie, Albert's long suffering girlfriend. She is dynamic in this role and handles her many solo numbers splendidly including "An English Teacher", ""Let's Settle Down" as well as "What Did I Ever See in Him" and the riveting "Spanish Rose'' where she finally declares her independence from Albert's insulting mother, Mae Peterson. Carman also does a topnotch dance with the men for "Shriner's Ballet".

Ryan Overberg plays Conrad Birdie excellently. He is one of the best Birdie's I have ever seen. He brings a great deal of charisma and sex appeal to this role. His first entrance in the Macafee house as this character is a sight to behold where he wears a robe, tight jockey shorts and hardly anything else, making all the women on stage and in the audience swoon. Ryan displays a fantastic singing voice especially the high A that he hits in "One Last Kiss". Ryan wears tight jeans and jacket for his first song "Sincere". It is hilarious as is his dancing prowess with his hip swivel and pelvic thrusts, making the crowd onstage faint. His snarling and lip curl during "One Last Kiss" is humorous, too and he is clad in a tight gold lame outfit at the end of the first act. Ryan leads the teen chorus in "A Lotta Livin" where they show off their singing and dancing talents. Ryan shines as this womanizing rock idol and the audience loved it when he gets arrested to escape the clutches of his crazed "jailbait" fans. When Birdie leaves town disguised as a woman is a laugh out loud moment where Ryan looks as ugly as sin as a woman. He is an equity actor who returns to the Boston area to continue his vocal training at Boston Conservatory. Bravo on a job well done! One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Anita Gillette as Mae Peterson and she is phenomenal in this role. She has the funniest lines in this show and makes every single one of them hit pay dirt. Anita is a hoot as she berates Albert and insults Rosie constantly. Anita displays her singing voice in and stops the show with her tour-de-force solo "A Mother Doesn't Matter Anymore" where she tells him how she cared for him throughout his whole life, heaping a guilt trip on him. She ends up in the garbage can at the end of it. Anita is clad in a mink coat throughout the show and drives the audience into hysterics with her wacky antics, wining her applause on her gangbuster entrances and exits. She delivers an outstanding performance as Mae Peterson. Brava and welcome to the Boston area!

Gillian Gordon plays Kim Macafee who is to be kissed by Conrad before he is inducted into the army. She has a lovely soprano voice which soars in the funny "How Lovely to Be a Woman", the pretty ballad, "One Boy" where she sings of her love for Hugo but swoons at the mention of Conrad's name and "What Did I Ever See in Him?", the duet with Rosie. Gillian's acting and dancing are wonderful for this part, too. Another funny performer is Brad Walters as Harry Macafee. His slow burns, facial expressions and line delivery is funny. His hamming it up during the live TV number and mugging for the TV camera is hilarious. Brad also sings the lead in "Ed Sullivan" and "Kids" numbers. The choral sound of these two numbers is splendid. Linda Lodi plays his worried wife, Doris beautifully, getting to sing and dance up a storm in this show. Josh Sussman plays kid brother, Randolph and gets to a chance to show off his strong singing voice in the reprise of "Kids". He is only 11 years old and does a great acting job as Randolph, too. The four of them backed by the chorus shine in the Ed Sullivan song with some of the best harmonies in the show.

Other scene stealers include Matt Phillipps as Hugo, Naree Ketudat as Ursula, Shonna Cirone as Gloria Rasputin and Jared Green as Harvey Johnson. Matt plays Kim's jilted boyfriend and has some funny moments trying to get drunk and punching Birdie during the TV show. He also has a terrific tenor voice. Naree is hysterical as the loudmouth cheerleader who welcomes Conrad to town by leading "We Love You, Conrad. She is a human dynamo as Ursula. Shonna plays Gloria, the vixen that Mae hires to woo Albert away from Rosie. She is a gorgeous gal who brings the house down while doing a dance routine and a split while Mae hums Swanee River. Jared is a hoot as the nerdy Harvey who sings in a high pitched voice during the outstanding choral number "The Telephone Hour". He does a fabulous job with his comic dancing. So for a trip down memory lane, back to the carefree 1950's be sure to catch this version of "Bye Bye Birdie" before it is too late. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Bye Bye Birdie" (13 - 22 July)
@ Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street, WALTHAM, MA

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