Bye Bye Birdie by Marple Newtown High School in Newtown Square, PA
March 19, 2019
Review submitted by Alexis Rendel of Archmere Academy
Put on a happy face because Marple Newtown High’s production of Bye Bye Birdie brought its audience back to the rock and roll swingin’ time of the 50s.
Bye Bye Birdie is a musical comedy following the teen idol, Conrad Birdie, and his manager, Albert Peterson, as they plan Conrad’s goodbye tour before he leaves for the army. In addition to juggling Conrad and keeping his many fangirls at bay, Albert attempts to keep his audacious secretary and love interest, Rose Alvarez, from leaving him as a result of Birdie’s antics. The story takes place in 1958 during the Cold War and includes some humor that is very specific for the time. With music by Charles Strouse (Annie), lyrics by Lee Adams, and a story by Michael Stewart, this light-hearted musical transports the audience back to the jumpin’ era of classic rock ‘n roll.
Though many scenes were lacking in energy, the overall production certainly captured the time period and fluently articulated the messages of love, family, and fame depicted in the story. Some suggestive scenes were altered in order to maintain a sense of innocence for younger audience members, and though this resulted in a lack of clarity and understanding at times, the attempt was greatly appreciated. The immense challenge of accommodating a cast of over one hundred members was met gracefully as the show ran with very few hiccups.
Vinnie Cavallero (Albert Peterson) brought a strong, lively presence to the stage, especially with the tap number “Put on a Happy Face.” Furthermore, Olivia Knapp conveyed the fiery nature of Rosie with a natural attitude. The comedic actors of this production shone through its shortcomings. Louie Kontaras as Harry MacAfee had the audience rolling in their seats with laughter during his speech on regaining Mr. MacAfee’s title as “Man of the House.” Even the drunken portrayal of Hugo Peabody (Brandon Raglow) and the awkward, lovestruck teenager Harvey Johnson (Richie Izzo) brought an energy to the stage that audiences certainly appreciated.
The technical aspects of Marple Newtown’s production definitely helped to strengthen the overall effect it had on the audience. Vinnie Cavallero’s costumes clearly expressed the 50s aesthetic and each costume had its own details, a terrific feat for dressing a cast of over one hundred people! The lighting, sets, and props, though simple in design, emulated the 50s with precision. At times, many of the mics seemed low in volume, giving the audience a difficult time understanding certain lines or songs, but period and storyline could still be understood.
Overall, Marple Newtown’s production of Bye Bye Birdie brought audiences back to a period of rock n’ roll and swing dancing, resulting in an entertaining, light-hearted piece.
Review submitted by Morgan Miller of Upper Merion Area High School
Inside the small town of Sweet Apple, Ohio, love blossoms as the town says Bye Bye Birdie in Marple Newtown High School’s amusing take on this classic period piece.
Set in 1958, Bye Bye Birdie follows the story of Conrad Birdie, an Elivis-esque rock star who is drafted into the army. When songwriter Albert Peterson chooses small-town teen Kim MacAfee to be Birdie’s last kiss before he heads off to war, her boyfriend Hugo will do almost anything to prevent her from kissing the teen heartthrob goodbye. Bye Bye Birdie was originally produced on Broadway in 1960 and features music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams.
Vinnie Cavallero led the production with his earnest and endearing portrayal of Conrad’s manager Albert Peterson. Cavallero showcased his excellent tap dancing skills and bright vocals in “Put on a Happy Face.” Cavallero’s chemistry with scene partner Olivia Knapp (Rose Alvarez) was charming and served to make their relationship appear dynamic and natural.
Allie Rollo certainly was a crowd favorite, as she portrayed a likeable and bubbly Kim MacAfee, whose infectious energy and innocence made her a delightful onstage presence. Alongside Rollo, Owen Clark embraced the role of rock star Conrad Birdie, as his mellow crooning and comical dance moves were a focal point during “Honestly Sincere,” where Clark succeeded in making the entire town weak in the knees with his exaggerated twists.
The Conrad Birdie Fan Club ensemble was a hysterical addition to the show, as their over-the-top swooning reactions and high energy level never failed to engage the audience in their various musical numbers. The Fan Club ensemble displayed impressive synchronicity in their dance moves, especially considering their sizable cast.
Vinnie Cavallero worked alongside the rest of the costume team in order to create an impressive range of unique costume designs. Cavallero crafted each individual costume in order to develop a seamless color scheme that accentuated the 1950s time period, with each individual family unit sporting their own unique color.
With this silly retelling of the renowned 1950s musical Bye Bye Birdie, Marple Newtown High School had their audience “Put on a Happy Face” as they enjoyed an afternoon of music and dancing that they would be hard pressed to forget.