By Kenneth Jones
10 Sep 2009
As in 1960, the Tony Award-winning musical by Michael Stewart (book), Lee Adams (lyrics) and Charles Strouse (music) pokes fun at Elvis-like pop stars and embraces the pre-Kennedy innocence and conformity of American family life.
There are hip-swiveling rock songs — "Honestly Sincere," "One Last Kiss" — sung by a character named Conrad Birdie, played by Nolan Gerard Funk, but there are also sweetly plucky show tunes like "Put on a Happy Face," sung by Birdie's manager-songwriter, Albert, played by Stamos. Within a decade "real" rock music would flood Broadway by way of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, but Birdie is significant in its introduction (however gentle) of an electric guitar sound.
Robert Longbottom, the Tony-nominated choreographer who previously reconceived Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song for revival, directs and choreographs Birdie. He has adjusted some scenes and songs to deepen the dramatic impact. "One Boy," for example, sung by Ohio teen Kim MacAfee (played by Allie Trimm), who is Birdie's biggest fan, is now a duet between Kim and her pimply beau, Hugo Peabody, played by Matt Doyle. Trimm is a teenager herself, having appeared in Broadway's 13. Doyle appeared in Spring Awakening.
There is one interpolation in the score: Strouse and Adams' title tune from the film version is now the rousing finale of this revival.
The plot of Bye Bye Birdie, an original musical not based on source material, concerns idol Birdie being drafted into the Army — and how the milestone impacts both his manager and all of teen-age America.
Bye Bye Birdie also stars Bill Irwin, Jayne Houdyshell, Dee Hoty and Jake Evan Schwencke, with ensemble members Catherine Blades, Deanna Cipolla, Paula Leggett Chase, Riley Costello, John Treacy Egan, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Todd Gearhart, Patty Goble, Suzanne Grodner, Robert Hager, Nina Hennessey, Natalie Hill, Julia Knitel, Jess Le Protto, David McDonald, JC Montgomery, Jillian Mueller, Paul Pilcz, Daniel Quadrino, Emma Rowley, Tim Shew, Kevin Shotwell, Allison Strong, Jim Walton, Brynn Williams and Branch Woodman.
This will be a limited engagement through Jan. 10, 2010.
Gershon plays Rose Alvarez (Albert's longtime girlfriend), Irwin is Mr. Harry MacAfee, Houdyshell is Mrs. Mae Peterson (Albert's hectoring mama), Hoty is Mrs. MacAfee and Schwencke is Randolph MacAfee.
Bye Bye Birdie's design team includes Andrew Jackness (sets), Gregg Barnes (costumes), Ken Billington (lights), Acme Sound Partners (sound), Howard Werner (projections), David Holcenberg (musical director), Howard Joines (musical coordinator), David Brian Brown (hair and wigs), Jonathan Tunick (orchestrations) and David Chase (music supervisor).
Here's how Roundabout characterizes the Tony Award-winning Bye Bye Birdie: "In Bye Bye Birdie, the exuberant rock 'n' roll musical comedy, it's 1960 and hip-swingin' teen idol superstar Conrad Birdie (Funk) 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'!"
Bye Bye Birdie received the 1961 Tony Award for Best Musical. The writers all won Tonys for their work.
Bye Bye Birdie will play Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM with Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 PM.
Tickets are available online at www.byebyebirdieonbroadway.com or by phone at (212) 239-6200. Ticket prices range $86.50-$136.50. To become a Roundabout subscriber visit www.roundabouttheatre.org or call Roundabout Ticket Services (212) 719-1300.