Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The Chariho Players spring presentation is "Bye Bye Birdie" which is based on Elvis Presley's induction into the army. These high school students plus six adult performers under Maureen Noel's direction brings this musical comedy of the 1950's to life making the audience of 2001 enjoy their acting, singing and dancing.
Maureen casts the show very well and she is aided by her very capable muscial director, Alison who brings out the best in her singers and in her band members, too. The band blended beautifully on all the numbers. Choreographers Nancy Bryers and Chris Monteith(who is in the show and is an outstanding dancer especially as a cop in"Put on a Happy Face") get these students to excell in all their numbers. Maureen does a wonderful job with her students making for an entertaining and enjoyable night for the crowd. The outstanding 2 story unit set is by Preston Lawhorne Sr. The scenes are able to flow into one another smoothly and the backstage is run by student stage manager Josh Gardiner who keeps this big show under control.
Preston Lawhorne Jr. plays Conrad Birdie perfectly. He is Elvis brought back to life. The hip swivel and the pelvic thrusts are outstanding! Preston has a splendid singing voice to go with the trademark movements. He opens the show in a silver jumpsuit and silver shoes leading the teen chorus to scream and swoon over him. Preston's numbers, "Sincere" where all the females in town faint, "One Last Kiss", where he gets punched in the kisser and "A Lot of Livin To Do" where all the teens follow him around town as if he was the pied piper, are all executed excellently. A very talented leading actor helps make the show a success.
Leading lady, Sherilee Wood is superb as Rosie Alvarez. She is not only gorgeous but she is super talented, too. Sherilee mastered an Irish brouge in her last show and in this one she masters all her songs and dances as well as acts splendidly as the spitfire, Rose. She handles "An English Teacher" where she wishes Albert was one, "Let's Settle Down" where she wishes they'd get married."What Did I Ever See in Him" where she is fed up with him, "Spanish Rose" where she is fed up with his mother, too and the duet "Rosie" where they are finally happy at last. Sherilee conveys the right emotion in each number and displays a strong vocal talent.
Michael Reilly plays Albert who is bullied and bossed around by his mother throughout the show until he finally stands up to her so he can finally be happy with Rosie and become an English teacher. Only a freshman, he does a fine acting job as the much older character. He has a cute song scene with 2 sad girls in "Put on a Happy Face", tries to woo Rosie back in "Baby, Talk to Me" backed up with a nice harmony from the chorus and in his final duet, "Rosie" where he finally wins the girl.
Senior Tonia Klemp dominates her scenes as Albert's mother, Mae Peterson, with her powerful stage presence. She has gangbuster entrances as well as great one liners. Funny moments include when she knocks Rosie out of the way and off her stool with her hips. Tonia also gets a blockbuster song of her own, "A Mother Doesn't Matter Anymore" which is hysterical. The song tells of her lifelong sacrifices for Albert, including how she nursed him until he was 4 years old, she delivers the number while tapdancing with her cane. What a hoot! Tonia has a bright future as a splendid character actress. Best of luck next year at college.
Colleen Turner plays Kim MacAfee. She has a fantastic soprano voice which soars in "How Lovely to Be a Woman", "One Boy",(trio with Kendra Johnson and Mary Kate Almeida supplying the lovely harmonies) and "What Did I Ever See in Him" (duet with Sherilee). She plays her part very well. The other members of her family are played by Steven Gagnon (Harry, her father) Pat Turner (Doris, her mother) and 10 year old David Ruhfel (Randolph, her brother). (David steals many scenes with his expert imitation of Conrad Birdie and by his singing and dancing skills, "The Twist" and especially in "Kids". An energetic bundle of talent.) The four of them shine in the Ed Sullivan song which has the best harmony in the show.
Another scene stealer is Chris Wright as Hugo Peabody. This sophmore is a wonderful actor and delivers the punch lines perfectly. His facial expressions in the "One Boy" song, when Kim faints and when he gets drunk on drinking milk are very funny. A good comic performance. Crystal Guilbert is a hoot as Ursula, the president of Conrad's fan club. From her catlike glasses to her screaming and swooning to her constant singing "We Love you Conrad", this girl is a natural comedienne. Corey O'Brien as Harvey Johnson does a great job in cracking his voice in the telephone song. It sounds like the change in a teenage boy's voice and it lead to many laughs.
Rounding out the rest of this talented 22 member cast is Dorothy Riley, Frank Condon, Preston Lawhorne Sr., Lori Lawhorne, Chantal Gagnon, Sarah and Emily Saterlee(2 sad girls), David Taylor(the mean barownerwho keeps throwing Hugo out of his club) and Kaitlyn Alfieri. (I also loved the beatnik outfits Dorothy and Lori wore in the bar scene.) So for wonderful entertainment by teenage and six adult performers, go see "Bye Bye Birdie". (You also get delicious sandwiches, pizza, chips and dip, cookies and sandwiches at your table and free soda, too.)