I saw the first revival of Bye Bye Birdie tonight at the newly refurbished Henry Miller Theater. It's the opening of the Roundabout Theatre Company's 2009-2010 theater season. Bye Bye Birdie last appeared on Broadway 48 years ago and was a Tony Award-winning musical at the time. Although this Bye Bye Birdie aims to please its audience, somehow I think it never quite gets you to fall in love with everything that goes on, on the stage. Still it is a show that has lots of "heart". The hard working and energetic cast is the one reason why I think many out-of-towners and locals alike should consider buying tickets.
Bye Bye Birdie is based on the 1963 film starring Dick Van Dyke, Ann Margaret and Janet Leigh. The show tells the story of an "Elvis-like" rock star named Conrad Birdie (played by Nolan Gerard Funk, making his Broadway debut) who seems to have every girl in the nation eating out of the palm of his hands. Conrad travels to Sweet Apple, Ohio where he is supposed to give "one last kiss" to young teenager Kim MacAfee (who just happens to be the leader of his fan club), just before he is to be drafted into the military. The special "kiss" is to take place on The Ed Sullivan Show on nationwide TV. Sounds kind of corny but "public relations is public relations, right"?
The main characters in the show are Conrad Birdie's record producer/manager Albert Peterson (played very capably by John Stamos) and his love interest Rose Alvarez (played by Gina Gershon). Mr. Stamos has played in Broadway's Cabaret, Nine and How To Succeed in Business..., as well as film and television for over 25 years now. He is always fun to watch in every medium he performs in and can even "carry a tune" quite nicely in this show. He has toured the country frequently throughout his career playing the drums with The Beach Boys, my favorite band.
Miss Gershon, who was last seen on Broadway in the 2008 Best Play Revival named Boeing- Boeing,has appeared in Cabaret, Camille, several other theater productions and a ton of film and television as well. She was very funny in Boeing-Boeing and tonight showed she has versatility while being able to convey herself as a "good girl" as well as someone who can "strut her stuff" as well. Although not a singer, she capably handles her song material. In Bye Bye Birdie, she plays Albert's secretary of 8 years waiting and waiting for him to propose. Unfortunately Albert's mother Mae has been against the relationship all the time. Mae is played by the very funny Jayne Houdyshell. She has performed in "Wicked" and "Well" on Broadway and has lots of additional theater, film and television credits. There are several moments where she clearly steals the show.
Rounding out the large cast are Bill Irwin who plays the young teenager Kim MacAfee's father and Dee Hoty as her mom. Mr. Irwin has an incredibly accomplished career that includes several Broadway shows, winning a Tony Award for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 2005 and lots of film and television credits too. Mr. Irwin might just be the best thing about this production of Bye Bye Birdie. He is funny and has a very unique style with mannerisms that make him quite noticeable throughout the evening. Dee Hoty has earned several nominations for Broadway appearances in Footloose, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public and The Will Rogers Follies. She has played the role of Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia! in many cities throughout the country and also played major roles in City of Angels, Me and My Girl, The Five O'Clock Girl and Shakespeare's Cabaret.
I thought that the Conrad Birdie role could have been a stronger one but maybe its because Mr. Funk needs a little more experience on the Broadway stage. Only time will tell.
Bye Bye Birdie has a book by Michael Stewart with excellent music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams. The sets are quite nicely done by Andrew Jackness with really colorful costumes by Gregg Barnes.
There are many songs in Bye Bye Birdie that take me back to the 1960's as I now recall the film from my childhood. The include "We Love You Conrad", "Put On A Happy Face", "One Boy", "One Last Kiss", "Kids", "A Lot Of Livin' To Do", "Rosie" and of course "Bye Bye Birdie".
So even though I sat in the audience for 2 hours and 20 minutes tonight, and was waiting for the show to "wow" me, maybe some of us expect too much when we go to the theater. Does every show have to "wow" us? I've seen 18 of the shows currently playing on Broadway. I've enjoyed many of them. And although maybe I expected too much from this Bye Bye Birdie, it is a show still worth seeing.
If you need advice on obtaining discount tickets while the show is in previews, I'd be happy to help you. Call me at Applause Ticket Agency (license #71AP1001029) in New York City, toll free at 800-451-9930 or locally at 212-307-7050. I consider myself a Broadway Show ticketing expert and would love to help you get great seats and prices for Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway.
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