Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Bye Bye Birdie"

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entire contents copyright 2002 by Tony Annicone

"Bye Bye Birdie"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Pilgrim Players current show is "Bye Bye Birdie", which is set in the late 1950's. It is based on Elvis Presley's induction into the army. Patricia Bastia directs her talented 24 member high school cast with a wonderful insight into the nostalgia of America in the carefree 1950's. She chooses the best people for their roles. Patricia also keeps the action flowing smoothly from scene to scene with the help of choreographer, Jessica Gardner and musical director, Walter Sage, she creates an inspiring musical treat for everyone to enjoy.

Patricia not only directs the show beautifully, she also blocks the scenes whether huge or small, letting everyone shine. Jessica does a great job with the dance numbers especially the tap dance duo, all the group numbers, Birdie's dancing as Elvis perfectly and the Spanish Rose dance. Walter not only taught the students the music, he also plays the piano for the show splendidly. He and his two band members, Tom Phillips on drums and Evan Gilroy, excell at accompanying the vocalists. Patricia also assembled topnotch backstage crew to keep the sets moving on and off quickly, another sign of a good director. A word of thanks to Nathan DeSisto, the media coordinator, who contacted me to review this well deserving show.

The cast is lead by Bobby Lima as Albert Peterson, the songwriter and agent of Conrad Birdie. Bobby is excellent not only in his singing but in his dancing, too. The tap dance segment in "Put On A Happy Face" with the sad girl was the best rendition I have ever seen of this number. His tenor voice also soars in "Rosie" when he and his true love unite at last. Bobby's acting shines throughout the show but it is when he finally stands up to his overbearing mother that he is cheered by the audience. He is headed to RIC in the fall and I'm sure he will do well in their performing arts and communications programs. The other lead is Brooke Souza who is dynamite as the spitfire, Rosie Alvarez. This girl's voice is fantastic and she sells all her songs wonderfully especially "An English Teacher" and "Spanish Rose" as well as in her duets "American Boy" with Albert and "What Did I ever See in Him" with Kim. The "Spanish Rose" number also shows off her tremendous dancing ability with a wonderful roll over the guys at the end of it. Brooke is a strong actress and she and Bobby handle their roles like seasoned veterans. Keep your eye on these two talented kids.

Rob Himebaugh plays Conrad Birdie beautifully. His imitation of Elvis type movements and song stylings is right on the money. Rob's numbers include "Sincere" where he makes the townspeople faint as his pelvic thrusts, "One Last Kiss" where he croons the song to an adoring Kim and "Lotta Livin' To Do" where he wants to find action in this small town before heading off to the army. He handles the swaggering macho singer with ease. Another scene stealer is Jen White as Mae Peterson, Albert's mother. She is clad in a mink coat from start to finish and her hilarious insults of Rosie and her playing the martyr for her Sonny Boy are priceless. Jen's escapades include throwing herself into a garbage can (while walking in it) and throwing herself onto the railroad tracks (that aren't there) She is a great character actress making every line count. (The western music in the confronatation with Rose is very funny, too)

Arielle Eagan plays Kim MacAfee. She has a beautiful soprano voice which soars in "One Boy" and "Rosie" with boyfriend, Hugo as well as in "Lotta Livin' " with Birdie. In the first song she professes her love for Hugo but faints completely over Conrad and the second one with Hugo, she finally realizes he is the one for her. Her boyfriend, Hugo is played by Alex Hatzberger who is an energetic dynamo in this show. He delivers his one liners perfectly and has a great singing voice in his duets with Arielle but he is hilarious when he overdoses on candy in the Sweet Shoppe in the second act. Another standout performance is given by Joe Gilmore as Harry MacAffee. His lines are comic gems and he gets the audience to roar and applaud for them. Joe's vocal talents are heard in the Ed Sullivan song (the strongest harmony in the show) and "Kids". His wife, Doris is played by Catie Flynn who shows off her beautiful voice and acting skills as Kim's mother. Randolph, their son is played by Jason Linden who is small in stature but is large in talent. He acts and sings with the ease of a well seasoned pro. The other strong vocalist in this show is Sunny Flynn who plays Ursula, the head of Birdie's fan club. She belts out the title song which sets the high standard which the rest of the cast follows.

Rounding out this very talented cast is Dylan O'Leary, Michelle Neff, Rayna Cletta, Vicki Venturini, Meredith Hickey, Paige Bennet-Bonn, Krystal Amaral, Pan Harlowe, Christina Keeler, Sarah Taylor, Jessica Poore, Chris Anderson, Ian Pharo and Derek Petrarca. There are many outstanding performers in this show and they all deserve a round of applause for a job well done. Be sure not to miss this Pilgrim Players show.

"Bye Bye Birdie" (3 - 6 April)
Pilgrim High School, 111 Pilgrim Parkway,WARWICK, RHODE ISLAND
Tickets at the door only

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide