Theatre Mirror Reviews-"Bye Bye Birdie"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone

"Bye Bye Birdie"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Dean College's School of the Arts autumn show 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 army. Originally titled "Let's Go Steady", the satire on American Society is set in 1958. The story was inspired by the phenomenom 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 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 Ali Angelone supplies fantastic direction and recreates the nostalgia of the 1950's with projections by Stacia Saniuk-Gove. Ali as the choreographer also creates phenomenal dance numbers with the strong musical direction of Greg Woodsbie which adds greatly to the enjoyment of this musical. Their reward is a spontaneous standing ovation at the curtain call.

Ali has a keen eye for comic situations and brings out the best in her cast. Ali's excellent dance numbers include soft shoe, a Fossesque telephone dance as well as rock and roll dances for "Sincere", "A Lot of Livin'" with standout dances for Conrad Birdie. I first reviewed Ali as a student at Rhode Island College back in 2000 when she played the little red haired girl in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Greg does a splendid job with the orchestra and vocals of the cast. The magnificent and authentic period costumes are by Daniel Kozar and the beautiful sets are by Mike Duarte. The cast is led by Jonathan J. Wickham as Albert Peterson, the songwriter and Birdie's agent. 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 Haley Flo Crowley as Rosie. He and she lead the chorus in "All American Boy." Jonathan's "Baby Talk to Me" shines with the male quartet backing him up with beautiful harmonies. He handles this huge role with high energy and finesse. Haley plays Albert's long suffering girlfriend, Rosie. She is dynamic in this role. Haley handles her many solo numbers marvelously including "An English Teacher", "One Boy" 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. They both have excellent chemistry with each other.

  Sean Kaiser plays Conrad Birdie excellently. He brings a lot of charisma and sex appeal to this role. His first entrance in the Macaffe house is a sight to behold as he enters in a leopard robe with red satin pajamas and makes all the women onstage and in the audience swoon. Sean also displays a fabulous singing voice in "One Last Kiss." Sean wears tight jeans and jacket for his first song "Sincere" which is hilarious as he does his hip swivel and pelvic thrusts, making the crowd onstage faint. Clad in a white suit jacket for "One Last Kiss" with a perfect snarl and curled lip, Sean stops the show at the end of Act 1. He also leads the teen chorus in "A Lot of Livin' to Do" where they display their singing and dancing prowess. Sean shines as this womanizing rock idol. I last reviewed Sean as Danny in "Grease" in 2014.  One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Tara DiGiovacchino as Mae Peterson. She has the funniest lines in the show and she makes each of them count. Tara 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 one point. Tara is clad in a mink coat throughout the show as she drives the audience into hysterics with her wacky behavior on her gangbusters entrances and exits.

Jessica Luhman plays Kim Macafee who is to be kissed before Conrad is inducted into the Army. She is a lovely blonde and has a beautiful soprano voice which soars in the funny "How Lovely to Be a Woman", the pretty ballad "One Boy" where she professes her love for Hugo but swoons at the mention of Birdie's name, and the angry number "What Did I Ever See in Him" with Rosie. Another comic performer is James Hansen as Harry Macaffe. His slow burns, facial expressions and line deliveries are hilarious. His hamming it up during the live TV number and mugging for the TV camera are laugh out loud moments. James also sings the lead in "Ed Sullivan" and stops the show with "Kids." The choral sound of these two numbers is splendid. Brianna Bronzetti who has an awesome soprano voice does a great job as his wife, Doris as does Tony Weissinger, an 12 year old who plays Randolph, Kim's kid brother. His comic timing is terrific for a boy his age. The four Macaffes backed by the chorus shine in the "Ed Sullivan" number with some of the best harmonies of the night.

Other scene stealers include Kenny Donovan as Hugo,Sierra Key as Ursula, Jessica Beal as Gloria Rasputin and Sam Miller as Harvey Johnson. Kenny plays Kim's jilted boyfriend who pretends to get drunk and punches Birdie on the live TV show. Sierra is hysterical as the loud mouth cheerleader who welcomes Conrad to town by leading the singing of "We Love You, Conrad" over and over again. Jessica plays the buxom vixen, Mae hires to steal Albert away from Rosie. She does a comic not knowing how to dance dance and ends up doing a split.Sam is a hoot as the nerdy, Harvey who leads the teens in the "Telephone Hour" number. So for a trip back to the carefree days of the 1950's, be sure to catch this marvelous rendition of the fun filled musical, "Bye Bye Birdie" to witness strong acting, singing and dancing from these hard working and talented college students.

"Around The World in 80 Days" (4 - 22 November)
@ Main Stage, Campus Center, 109 West Central Street, FRANKLIN MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide