‘Bye, Bye Birdie’ reaches back to simpler time in musical theatre history

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 It’s the mid-50s and singing super-star Conrad Birdie (a Elvis-type character) has been drafted and must leave for his basic training, leaving his fans in a frenzy, but a publicity stunt for a final kiss leads to a series or mis-steps, providing an enjoyable story with no hidden meanings, no dark comedy, no thought-provoking drama–just fun entertainment as the Mid-Life Players present “Bye, Bye Birdie” this weekend only at the Just Off Broadway Theatre in KCMO.

The musical comedy, “Bye, Bye Birdie” is by Michael Steward, Charles Strouse, and Lee Adams. The show runs Oct. 20-23 at 7:30 p.m. Thurs-Sat, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Mid-Life Players, a group of seasoned performers all over 35 years of age collaborated and rehearsed two nights a week to perform the concert-style version of a 1960s Broadway hit that later became a popular movie.

The play is a take off on the idea of Elvis Presley’s draft into the army. The twist is the central character, Conrad Birdie is nothing like The King of Rock and Roll. Birdie drinks, parties, smokes, is self-absorbed and riding the crest of a pop-culture wave. His fans are the teenage girls who idolize him. As a publicity stunt, main character Rosie chooses a Birdie fan club president at random to receive his final kiss before leaving for basic training. Sweet Apple, Ohio becomes the setting for Birdie’s final kiss before leaving.

The plot is thin and contrived, but still just plain fun to watch. The musical score produced several pop hits like “Put on a Happy Face,” “Got a Lot of Livin’ to Do,” and “Kids.” Other songs are mostly forgettable, but still fun.

“It is 1960, and at Almelou Music Corp. in New York, Conrad’s managers, Albert Peterson and Rosie Alvarez (who have been dating for years), learn that their client has been inducted into the army. Though shed prefer that Albert settle down and become An English teacher, Rosie concocts a plan: as a publicity stunt, Conrad will bid a typical American teen-age girl goodbye with a public farewell kiss. Rosie randomly selects the name of the lucky girl: fifteen-year-old
Kim McAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio,” Mid Life players said.

The show is very light-hearted and fun to experience. Stand out performances come from Franci Talamantez, Bill Bergman, Ruth Bigus, Joy Richardson, Curt Knupp, and Donnie Miller. Talamantez’ vocals absolutely stand out. Bigus brings lots of laughs as the over-protective mother (and no woman is good enough for her son). Bill Bergman is the grumpy father of Kim who detests the whole stunt and his daughter’s involvement in it. Joy Richardson portrays Kim, the fan-club president who just became pinned to Hugo, played by Donnie Miller. Richardson’s soprano vocals help move the show along. Curt Knupp, as Birdie, dominates each scene when he appears in his gold-lame costume. It’s hard to keep your eyes off him. And, he’s funny as the not-so-nice teenage heartthrob.

“Bye, Bye Birdie” in concert uses costumes but no sets or scene changes as such. As concert-style, it moves quickly along and keeps the audience following along the story line. The show is frivolous, light-hearted, and just plain fun. “Bye, Bye Birdie” is one of those Broadway classics that needs dusted off and revived for those who forgot how much fun it is to experience a show that does not have deep or hidden meaning–or a tragic end. Mid Life Players are to be commended for bringing this back to Kansas City audiences.

Directed by Annette Cook, the Mid Life cast includes: Dan Prather, Franci Talamantez, Curt Knupp, Joy Richardson, Bill Bergman, Susan Neu, Rod Chapin, Ruth Bigus, Donnie Miller, Andrea Hobley, Gary Barber, Becky Clark, Tim Thomas, Danise Deckert, Nan Lippincott, Corrine Bakker, Sharon Johnson, Kate Elcock, Kate Narboneta, and Kim Sheek.

Tickets range from $10-15, and are general admission at the Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051
Penn Valley Drive. The play contains no violence, no profanity, and is appropriate for all ages. More information can be attained by emailing: mid-lifeplayers@hotmail.com.

 

Tags: Performing Arts, Arts & Entertainment, Mid Life Players, “Bye Bye Birdie”, Musical, Theater, Kanas City, Just Off Broadway Theatre

 

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