Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bye Bye Birdie, Hello Rosie

“Immigrant” steals Lynden show
by Christopher Key

Wait!  Isn’t Bye Bye Birdie supposed to be all about a rock ‘n roller who is about to be drafted into the Army?  Well, yeah.  The book by Michael Stewart, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams were all inspired by Elvis.  So how does a Latina secretary run away with the show?  Stay tuned.

Bye Bye Birdie is an iconic piece of Americana, inspired as it was by the rock ‘n roll revolution of the 1950s and the horror it inspired in parents.  But, as usual in American Musical Theatre, it got cleaned up a bit.  There is none of the raw sexuality that made parents lock up their daughters and Ed Sullivan refuse to show Elvis below the waist.  There is none of the African-American influence that informed early rock ‘n roll.  It’s a sanitized version of the 1950s à la Happy Days.

That’s not to say it isn’t fun, just as Happy Days was fun.  Just don’t go looking for any deep social commentary here or even real rock ‘n roll.  Director Nathan Smith realizes this and doesn’t try to get too hip.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

Before I get to that show-stealing secretary, I have to admit that the theoretical star of the show has it down.  Jordan Riddle has the looks, the hair, and the attitude.  His voice is more crooner than rock ‘n roller, but that’s OK given the score.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

Conrad Birdie is managed, more-or-less, by Albert Peterson, who is played to momma’s-boy perfection by Jeremy Loween.  It’s a perfect role for the actor who played Charlie Brown so memorably at the Bellingham Theatre Guild.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

Peterson’s secretary, Rosie Alvarez, is given a central role by the playwrights and Megan Sutton sizzles as she runs away with the show.  She’s sassy, sexy, simpatico and simply impossible to take your eyes off of.  She’s been seen on local stages before, but this is her breakout role.  I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

A rather more…ummm…mature performer also commits some grand theatrical larceny.  The inimitable Laura Nelson is an absolute hoot as Albert’s mother-from-hell.  Or at least from Hoboken.  Her performance is worth the price of admission by itself.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

Kira Iaconetti is delightful as Kim MacAfee, the president of the Conrad Birdie fan club, Sweet Apple, Iowa, chapter.  She just got pinned (see: mating habits of 1950s females) by her boyfriend Hugo Peabody.  Alex Swanson is perfectly goofy as her smitten boyfriend who’s just a bit jealous of her fixation on Birdie.

Parents in 1950s shows are usually portrayed as loving, but basically incompetent, human beings.  Ron Falcone and Rebecca Riopelle fit the mold perfectly.

Costuming in any 1950s period piece is vital and Ann Balfour, Lee Verhaaren and Beth Vonnegut know their poodle skirts and bobby sox.

Bye Bye Birdie plays November 19 through December 6 at the Claire vg Thomas Theatre, 755 Front Street in Lynden.  It’s a small theatre, so get you tickets soon by calling (360) 354-4425 or go to http://www.clairevgtheatre.com/box-office-information-2/.

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