Roundabout Theatre Company has announced the casting for director-choreographer Robert Longbottom's new production, to play a Roundabout venue in fall 2009. Dates and theatre will be announced.
TV, Broadway and pop star Stamos will play manager-songwriter Albert Peterson; film and Broadway actress Gershon will be Albert's long-suffering girlfriend, Rose Alvarez; Tony Award winner Irwin will be suburban dad Harry MacAfee; and Wicked veteran Jayne Houdyshell (acclaimed for her work in Well on and off Broadway) will be Albert's guilt-inflicting mother, Mae Peterson.
Casting for the roles of star-struck teen Kim MacAfee and the Elvis-like, hip-swiveling Conrad Birdie will be announced at a later date, as will additional creative members and citizens of Sweet Apple, OH. Sweet Apple is where Conrad Birdie plants "One Last Kiss" on a fan — live, on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
Birdie, which won the 1961 Tony Award as Best Musical, has a book by the late Michael Stewart, lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse. Strouse previously told Playbill.com that Longbottom may incorporate a version of the 1963 film's title song into the stage show (the number is not usually part of the Broadway score).
Bye Bye Birdie was one of the first musicals to introduce a rock 'n' roll sound into a Broadway score, albeit gently and satirically. Conrad Birdie's "One Last Kiss" and "Honestly Sincere" are accompanied by electric guitar but are hardly the hard-sell rock songs that audiences would hear within the next decade in Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. Amusement and cultural parody were the goals of Stewart, Strouse and Adams. (The script indicates that Conrad's first hit, written by Albert, was called "Ugga Bugga Boo" — a song that we don't get to hear.) In 1961, Gower Champion won Tony Awards for Direction and Choreography for Bye Bye Birdie, and Dick Van Dyke (Albert) won the Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Musical (he starred in the film, too). Dick Gautier (Conrad) was also nominated in the Featured Actor category and Chita Rivera (Rosie) was nominated as Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Robert Randolph's scenic design was also Tony-nominated (a famous geometric beehive set was used for "The Telephone Hour"), as was the music direction of Elliott Lawrence (the music direction/conductor Tony category no longer exists).
The original Broadway production of Bye Bye Birdie ran 607 performances.
Here's how Roundabout characterizes the classic: "In Bye Bye Birdie, the exuberant rock 'n' roll musical comedy, it's 1960 and hip-swingin' teen idol superstar Conrad Birdie has been drafted into the Army. Birdie's manager Albert (Stamos) and his secretary Rosie (Gershon) have cooked up a plan to send him off with a swell new song and one last kiss from a lucky teenage fan…on 'The Ed Sullivan Show!'"
The score includes "Put On a Happy Face," "Kids," "Rosie," "A Lot of Livin' to Do" and more. In the 1995 TV movie version and in a national tour starring Tommy Tune, Mae Peterson got a juicy specialty number.
Stamos was most recently featured on the final three seasons of NBC's critically acclaimed drama "ER," the series finale of which airs April 2 on NBC. On Broadway, he was a replacement principal in Roundabout's Tony Award-winning Cabaret and Nine, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Bye Bye Birdie will mark the first time Stamos (remembered by a generation as Uncle Jesse on TV's "Full House," to say nothing of his "General Hospital" days) originates a role in a Broadway production.
Gershon was most recently in Broadway's Tony Award-winning revival of Boeing-Boeing. She made her Broadway musical debut as Sally Bowles in Roundabout's production of Cabaret.
Director-choreographer Longbottom made his Broadway debut as director-choreographer on the original musical Side Show, which earned four Tony Award nominations including one for Best Musical. Other Broadway credits include the Mark Taper Forum production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (Tony nomination for Best Choreography) with a new book by playwright David Henry Hwang. For Disney Theatrical he created the compilation musical On the Record. At the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, he directed a new production of the wartime classic, Mister Roberts and most recently returned to direct and choreograph a critically acclaimed production of Carnival. He recently directed a staged reading of Stage Door for the Roundabout Theatre as well as a new musical Triangle at the Eugene O'Neill Center. Upcoming Broadway projects include a 'new' Irving Berlin musical with playwright Jeffrey Hatcher entitled Let Yourself Go and a new production of Dreamgirls for producer John Breglio.
To join Roundabout as a subscriber, visit www.roundabouttheatre.org or call Roundabout Ticket Services (212) 719-9393.
Tickets go on sale to the general public June 2009. Check www.roundabouttheatre.org for details.
Roundabout Theatre Company currently produces at three permanent homes: Off-Broadway's Laura Pels Theatre and Black Box Theatre (in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre) and Broadway's Studio 54 and American Airlines Theatre.
For more information, visit www.byebyebirdieonbroadway.com or www.roundabouttheatre.org.