REVIEW BY NATALIA VIVINO
This past Saturday, the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse delivered a fun and friendly production of the classic Tony-award winning musical Bye, Bye Birdie. As many theatregoers know, Birdie was inspired by the 1958 drafting of Elvis Presley into the U.S. Army. The show, with book by Mike Stewart, music by Charles Strouse, and lyrics by Lee Adams, centers around the innocent town of Sweet Apple, Ohio, where a lucky fan by the name of Kim MacAfee (Elizabeth Mann) is chosen at random to receive one last kiss by teenage heartthrob Conrad Birdie (Quinn Knox). Chaos and comedy ensue when Albert Peterson (David Banuelos), and his longtime girlfriend and secretary Rose Alvarez (Dawn Notagiacomo) plan to leave the music business and start a life of their own, much to the dismay of Albert’s mother, Mae Peterson (Linda Smith).
One of the more interesting things that makes Birdie different from other musicals is its lack of an overture, instead using a gaggle of teenage girls cheering for Conrad right at the start, and then transitioning into a different scene between Albert and Rosie, where Notagiacomo has the chance to show off her pretty voice. The teens return with an interesting rendition of “Telephone Hour,” in which much of the number is performed through silhouettes of the singers. We meet Kim and her best friend Ursula (Hannah Comstock) immediately after the number. Mann performs “How Lovely to Be a Woman,” sung in a more mature tone than expected, but controlled nonetheless. As soon as she learns she’s been chosen at random to kiss Birdie in the following scene, her inner “fan girl” emerges.
Right before Conrad arrives in Sweet Apple, he must face a swarm of reporters and adoring fans in New York, at a train station with Albert and Rosie. This is also when Albert’s mother, Mae Peterson, is introduced, played by Smith, who arrives on stage complete with the perfect attire. Mae makes random appearances throughout the first and second acts, adding bits of comic relief while also remaining a strong tie to the plot itself. The same is true for Hugo Peabody (Spencer Andelson), Kim’s boyfriend, who is jealous that she gets to kiss Conrad. When the entire town faints from Conrad’s charms during “Honestly Sincere,” Hugo feels even more threatened. While it’s clear that all of the songs in this musical are memorable, “Honestly Sincere” is an audience favorite. Despite technical troubles with his microphone, Knox pulled through by staying in character throughout the entire number.
In the second act, the show takes a more rebellious turn, as the innocent teens of Sweet Apple decide to act more adult (or rather, what they believe to be adult). As a result, relationships turn chaotic and Conrad decides that enough is enough. In “A Lot of Livin’ To Do,” he decides to have a night out on the town for himself. Albert nearly loses his mind trying to take control of the situation, and Rosie goes off on her own to relive the years she has lost by chasing after him. To win Rosie back, Albert tries to talk to her over the phone, which is when Banuelos sings the touching “Baby, Talk to Me.” Meanwhile, all of the teens are still running loose with Conrad, and the adults of Sweet Apple are fed up with trying to control their behavior. Kim’s father Harry (Roger Ritenour) and mother Doris (Kaelia Franklin) perform the hilarious “Kids,” which the rest of the adults join in on during the reprise, along with Kim’s younger brother Randolph (Logan Sylvester). To this day, the song remains one of the best remembered from the show.
As a whole, it was clear the entire cast and crew enjoyed themselves. While there were a few technical issues, such as slow set changes and the aforementioned sound troubles, Bye, Bye Birdie still provides a nice dose of entertainment for those in search of it. The show runs through April 26th. For more information, visit www.skywayplayhouse.org. You can also visit the VC On Stage Calendar for dates, showtimes, and directions to the theater.