VINTAGE PLAYBILL: Bring Back Birdie, 1981
By Brynn Cox
On this date in 1981, Broadway flop Bring Back Birdie premiered at the Martin Beck (now Al Hirschfeld) Theatre.
The musical revisited the characters of the 1960 Broadway hit Bye Bye Birdie and reunited the original creative team — librettist Michael Stewart, composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams. Chita Rivera reprised her role as Rose Alvarez, and Donald O'Connor made his Broadway debut as Albert Peterson, the role originated by Dick Van Dyke.
In the sequel, Rose and Albert attempt to arrange a comeback Grammys performance for the washed-up Conrad Birdie amidst the challenges of their teenaged kids and Albert's ever-meddling mother Mae.
Despite the team of proven talent, Bring Back Birdie could not reproduce the magic of its Tony-winning predecessor. In his New York Times review, Frank Rich wrote that the "depressing" production "begins in amiable shambles," then "devolves into total chaos." The musical shuttered two days later.
Though the musical played just four performances, Chita Rivera left an impression, and she received Tony and Drama Desk nominations for her work.
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