‘Bye Bye Birdie’ celebrates poodle skirts, young love
The stage was hot at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley. But it wasn’t the high temperature that heated up the performance area; rather, it was the limitless energy of the bouncy teenagers singing and dancing through “Bye Bye Birdie.” With their ponytails and poodle skirts flying – costumes colorfully and creatively designed by Patti Grijalva – the teens effectively re-created the 1950s and the screaming groupies who surrounded rock stars. One particular teen, Camille Cadeaux, had THE best scream – it could probably be heard in Nevada City.
If you can’t recall the many re-creations of the Birdie story, it’s about rock star Conrad Birdie (a la Elvis), humorously played and sung with twitchy lips and hips and exaggerated pompadour by Micah Cone, who is being drafted into the army. To assure one last musical hit for Birdie, the singer’s manager, Albert, comically acted and wonderfully voiced and danced by Paul Micsan; and Albert’s love interest and secretary, appealingly played and sung by Kathy Goldie, create an event to get Birdie on TV – Birdie will give one last kiss to a member of his fan club before leaving for military service. Trying to break up Albert and Rose’s relationship, Albert’s mother, Mae – dowdily minked, fabulously exaggerated and hilariously acted by Corrine Gelfan Carroll – keeps showing up at very inopportune times. Juliette Hill, as the 15-year-old Birdie will kiss, is quite cute but occasionally a tad too flirtatious for me. Inevitably, the sweet love stories win out over the trials and tribulations (after all, this was written in 1960).
But this musical isn’t only for teenagers. In its own naïve way, it’s about relationships, growing up and being true to yourself. And of course, the songs are tuneful, with fine musical direction by Carolyn Winters, backed by an instrumental ensemble well-led by Roberta Frank on piano. George Jayne’s choreography nicely shows off the flounce of the poodle skirts and the sexiness of Rose’s “Shriner” dance number. Richard Winter’s effective direction allows the many scene transitions to go remarkably smoothly – from moving props to moving actors, everything in place each time the lights go up.
This is a visually, musically fun family play. Treat yourself and your teens to see a group of hard-working, talented locals, obviously having a good time and causing you to do so, too. “Bye Bye Birdie” continues at the Center through July 22.
For those who suffered through the heat of last year’s summer performances at the center, new fans have been installed and the temperature for the audience is quite comfortable.
Hindi Greenberg had to stop herself from humming along with each song, which she knows by heart – her companions would not have been happy with her sharps and flats.
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