Bye Bye Birdie

The Little Theater on the Square

I was especially looking forward to this one, or at least I think I was. Birdie was the first big musical production I was a part of -- my freshman year in high school. I was all excited until I got to thinking about how long ago that was (without being specific, many of the cast members were still in diapers at the time, and some hadn't even been born yet). But this is a play about youth, and about growing up....

Albert Peterson is not a youth, but he hasn't grown up yet either. This causes some frustration for his faithful secretary Rose Alvarez. He runs Almaelou, and is responsible for an Elvisian singer named Conrad Birdie. Conrad has been drafted, and Albert is more than slightly flustered about how to make good on some financial obligations while Birdie's in the Army. Leave it to Rose to find the solution -- Birdie will give a good-bye kiss to one of his adoring fans, picked at random. He'll do it on national television, and he'll do it after singing his latest hit song (to be written by Albert) One Last Kiss. Rose sings a cute little song about becoming Mrs. Albert Peterson (the English teacher's wife), then Albert's mother comes in. Albert still has yet to cut the umbilical cord between him and his mother (or admit that he wants to do something other than music) and Mother doesn't like Rose -- go figure. Anyway, the lucky girl picked to be kissed is from Sweet Apple Ohio, her name is Kim MacAffee, and she's just been pinned to a young man named Hugo (for those of you who don't know what being pinned means (other than the wrestling term), she is now going steady). She's all ready to give up such childish things as Conrad Birdie, until she gets the news. Conrad, Albert, and Rose hop a train to Sweet Apple, where Conrad wows the whole town. Hugo's not exactly happy about his girl kissing some one else, and Kim's dad isn't happy about Conrad, Albert, and Rose staying at his house. He's about to throw them all out, until he finds out that they'll all be on the Ed Sullivan Show. Things are going fairly well until Mother arrives -- it seems Albert told her he was going to dissolve the music company and marry Rose when this was all done. Needless to say, she brings Albert a new candidate for secretary, which makes Rose jealous. Rose arranges for Hugo (who is also jealous) to sneak into the theater, and on national TV, he punches Conrad before he can bestow his one last kiss. Kim gets mad at Hugo for ruining her moment, Albert gets mad at Rose for ruining his. Rose packs up, and goes to a bar to have fun as Wild Spanish Rose, Kim runs off with Conrad, who wants to have some fun before he ships off. Kim's Dad, upon learning of her disappearance starts hunting down Conrad, Albert starts hunting too, but first he looks for Rose. He finds Rose, they find Conrad -- and Kim, and her Dad, and a policeman who's hauling Conrad off to jail. Before going off to rescue Conrad, Albert tells his mother to go home, and Rose to get ready for their wedding. In the morning, Kim is happily with Hugo, Conrad is off to the Army, Momma is off to home, and Albert and Rose are off to the Justice o' the Peace to get married, before they go off to a life of academic bliss.

I had forgotten how funny this play was. The ABC production with Jason Alexander wasn't that funny -- I guess it's one of those things that works better in an intimate setting. Kim's Dad was an absolute riot -- he has finally redeemed his poor performance in Sound of Music -- and then some. The theater has also discovered the value of a good wireless lavalier microphone -- Rose and Conrad would have been inaudible without them. There were a few things missing though -- the boy's version of the Conrad Birdie song (we hate you Conrad / oh yes we do / we don't hate anyone / as much as you) was nowhere to be heard, and the bit where Wild Spanish Rose wanders into a Shriner's meeting and gets in over her head. And finally, I must admit to a moment of sadness -- during the song 'Got a lot of Livin' I was reminded of my dance partner those 20 years ago. She had less than a year of livin to do, before some drunken fool ran into her car one Sunday night as she was coming home from church. But, since most of you don't have that sad memory to deal with -- and I've actually posted this while the show is running -- take the time to go see it if you can