Theatre Mirror Review>"Bye, Bye Birdie"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"Bye, Bye Birdie"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Encore Summer Stock's summer show is "Bye Bye Birdie", the Tony Award winning 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. The show is set in 1958 and was inspired by Elvis receiving his draft notice in 1957. The Broadway production won the Tony Award, ran 607 performances and starred Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde, Dick Gauthier, Susan Watson and Kay Medford. The singer, known in the show as Conrad Birdie comes to town to give a girl "One Last Kiss". Director Ashley Lopes provides topnotch direction and recreates the nostalgia of the 1950's. The topnotch musical direction by Ryan DeWolfe and the energetic and creative dances of choreographer Lisa Palmer add to the enjoyment of this show with their 41 member cast.

Ashley has a keen eye for comic situations and brings out the best in her cast. Ryan does a splendid job with the vocalists and the orchestra especially the quartet harmonies in "Baby Talk to Me." Lisa's dances include soft shoe, rock n' roll dances and Birdie's terrific dances, too. Leading this huge cast is Brian Lopes as Albert, the songwriter and agent of Conrad Birdie. He captures the comic aspect of the character wonderfully. Brain's strong baritone voice is heard in "Put on a Happy Face", "Talk to Me" and "Rosie". He and his leading lady lead the chorus in "All American Boy". The audience roots for him to win the girl of his dreams and cheers when he finally stands up to his overbearing mother. Stephanie Witz is topnotch as Rosie, Albert's long suffering girl friend. She handles her numbers wonderfully including "An English Teacher", "One Guy", "What Did I Ever See in Him?" and the riveting "Spanish Rose" where she declares her independence from Albert's insulting mother, Mae Peterson. Stephanie does a marvelous dance to "Spanish Rose" and the "Shriner's Ballet."

Ethan Beise is excellent as Conrad Birdie. He brings a lot of charisma and sex appeal to the role. His first entrance in the Macafee house is a hoot while clad in a robe and shiny boxers. His swagger and strut as Birdie is hilarious. Ethan displays his strong voice in "Sincere" while clad in a gold lame jumpsuit and where he does a pelvic thrust dance that causes all the women onstage to faint, in "One Last Kiss" with a snarl on his face and his lipped curled while clad in an Army Uniform and in "A Lotta Livin' to Do" where he leads the teen chorus where they display their singing and dancing talents. Ethan shines as this womanizing rock star and the audience loves it when he gets arrested to escape the clutches of his crazed jailbait fans. One of the biggest scene stealers is Cassie Tortorici as Mae Peterson. She has the funniest lines in the show and she makes them hit pay dirt whether she is berating Albert or insulting Rosie constantly. Her walk as this older character is terrific, too.Cassie displays her singing voice in her tour de force solo "A Mother Doesn't Matter Anymore". Mae explains how she cared for Albert all his life and now he dumps her out like garbage with her winning thunderous applause at the end of the number. Cassie is clad in a mink coat during the show and drives the audience into hysterics at her wacky antics. Other comic performers include Brooks Shatraw as Hugo, Gianna Zavola as Ursula, Ashley Lopes as Gloria, Julie Gottschalk as the Mayor's wife and Max Littman as Harvey Johnson. Brooks plays Kim's jilted boyfriend who punches Birdie during the live TV show. Gianna is hysterical as the loudmouth cheerleader who keeps singing "We Love You Conrad" constantly. Ashley plays the vixen that Mae hires to lure Albert away from Rosie. Julie is hilarious when she faints during "Sincere" where the audience sees her bloomers. Max is a hoot as the nerdy Harvey who sings in a high pitched voice during choral number "The Telephone Hour". So for a trip down memory lane, back to the carefree 1950's, be sure to catch this rendition of "Bye Bye Birdie."

"Bye, Bye Birdie" (15 - 17 August)
ENCORE SUMMER STOCK
@ Stadium Theatre, Monument Square, WOONSOCKET RI
1(401)762-4545

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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