HMS ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ Production as Great as a Broadway Performance
April 13, 2018
by Len Lathrop
The Nute gymnatorium at Hudson Memorial School was the site of two evenings of entertainment. Wow is not a strong enough word or, as Senator Bob Clegg posted on Facebook, “Absolutely best New York City quality performance ever of “Bye Bye Birdie” by Hudson Memorial School students! What a night!”
With the orchestra comprised of musicians from the Alvirne Music Department under the direction of Sarah Herron, the music was only surpassed by the voices on stage; it was hard to believe that the actors were middle school students.
In the front row on Friday night both the Vocal Director Mike Gallagan and Alvirne Director of Bands Rob Scagnelli must have found it hard to remain in their seats seeing the talent that would be part of their program in the upcoming years.
“Bye Bye Birdie” is set in 1958. The story was inspired by the phenomenon of popular singer Elvis Presley and his draft notice into the Army in 1957. The rock star’s character’s name, “Conrad Birdie,” is word play on the name of Conway Twitty.. Twitty is best remembered today for his long career as a country music star, but in the late 1950s, he was one of Presley’s rock ‘n’ roll rivals. Conrad Birdie’s character was portrayed to perfection by Matthew Ryan.
The original 1960-1961 Broadway production was a Tony Award-winning success. It spawned a London production and several major revivals, a sequel, a 1963 film, and a 1995 television production.
The following, courtesy of Wikipedia, gives a synopsis of the non-stop goings on.
Agent and songwriter Albert Peterson, played with authenticity by Jackson Rogers, finds himself in trouble when hip-thrusting rock-and-roll superstar Conrad Birdie gets drafted into the Army. Albert’s secretary and sweetheart, Rose “Rosie” Alvarez, comes up with a last-ditch publicity stunt to have Conrad Birdie record and perform a song before he is sent overseas. She makes Albert promise to give up the music business and to start teaching English at schools (“An English Teacher”). They plan to have Birdie sing Albert’s new song “One Last Kiss” and give one lucky girl from his fan club a real “last kiss” on “The Ed Sullivan Show” before going into the Army. The role of Rosie was played by Jaclyn Allen.
The lucky girl chosen randomly from Conrad’s fan club is 15-year-old Kim MacAfee from Sweet Apple, Ohio. All the teenagers in Sweet Apple are catching up on the latest gossip about Kim MacAfee, who is played by the talented Aliyah Oliveria, and Aiden Lechner who was well suited to the role of Hugo Peabody as Kim’s steady boyfriend. Excited to have a boyfriend, Kim reflects on how happy she is with her maturity through the song “How Lovely to Be a Woman”. She quits the Conrad Birdie fan club over the phone because of the new milestone happening in her life, and as she tells the news, her best friend Ursula, played by Adrielle Martin, is shocked.
Meanwhile, Conrad, Albert, and Rose set off to Sweet Apple to prepare for the event. Before they depart by train from New York City, local teenage girls are ecstatic to meet Conrad, although one young girl is sad because she thinks that by the time Conrad gets out of the army, she will be too old for him. Albert advises her to be optimistic with a rendition of “Put on a Happy Face.” Soon, reporters arrive with questions for Conrad, but Rosie, Albert, and the girls answer for him, pushing away tabloids and singing “Normal, American Boy”. Conrad receives a hero’s welcome in Sweet Apple, and Hugo worries that Kim likes Conrad more than she likes him, but Kim assures Hugo that he is the only one she loves by serenading him with “One Boy”. Conrad shocks the town’s parents and drives the teenage girls crazy with his performance of “Honestly Sincere,” causing all of the girls, including the mayor’s wife, to faint.
Conrad becomes a guest in the MacAfee house and irritates Kim’s father, Harry MacAfee, played by Cody Wood, by being a rude and selfish guest. Mr. MacAfee does not want Kim to kiss Conrad until Albert tells him their whole family will be on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Mr. and Mrs. MacAfee, acted by Nellie Brooks, Kim, and her younger brother Randolph, portrayed by Ryan Boullianne, sing Sullivan’s praises in “Hymn for a Sunday Evening.
Hugo senses Kim’s attraction to Conrad and becomes very jealous. Albert’s overbearing, interfering mother, Mae Peterson, played by Mansi Mathur, comes to break up her son’s relationship with Rosie. She introduces Albert to Gloria Rasputin, portrayed by Hillary Weston, a curvy blonde she met on the bus who could replace Rosie as his secretary. Gloria hopes that if she helps Albert with papers, he can get Gloria into show business, as she is a tap dancer. Mae sings “Swanee River” as Gloria tap dances –generally making a fool of herself– and ends doing a split.
Rosie, jealous and angry, dreams of violent ways to murder Albert in “One Hundred Ways Ballet”. Rosie and Hugo plot to ruin the broadcast. Conrad sings on “The Ed Sullivan Show” with “One Last Kiss”, and as he leans in to plant one on Kim, Hugo runs onstage and punches him in the face. On live television, Conrad faints, Rosie breaks up with Albert, and Albert, trying to cover for the mishaps of the evening, leads a chorus of “Normal American Boy.”
Despite plans to re-film the broadcast, Rosie and Kim resolve to leave Albert and Hugo, lamenting their stupidity for having fallen in love with the boys in “What Did I Ever See in Him?”. Rosie leaves the MacAfee house, and Kim plans to go with her, but her father doesn’t let her. Kim sneaks out of the house and joins the Sweet Apple teens. Conrad decides he wants to go out and have a good time on his last night as a civilian and encourages the teens to party. Conrad, Kim, and all the teenagers, except Hugo, head for the Ice House to party without adult supervision. Hugo goes to Maude’s Roadside Retreat, hoping to get drunk, but the proprietor can tell that he’s under age and refuses to serve him.
When Mr. MacAfee discovers Kim has run away, he and Mrs. MacAfee lament how disobedient kids are today with the song “Kids”. Rosie ends up at Maude’s Roadside Retreat and starts hitting on other men, but Albert calls her on the telephone and begs her to return to him with “Baby, Talk to Me”. Rosie, hoping to forget Albert, interrupts a Shriners’ meeting being held in Maude’s private dining room. She flirts with all the Shriners, and they begin a wild dance. Hugo and Albert rescue Rosie from the crazed Shriners, and Albert finally stands up to his mother, telling her to go home. Mae becomes so upset that she leaves, but not before heavily dramatizing the sacrifices she made for him by proclaiming “A Mother Doesn’t Matter Anymore”. Hugo tells the MacAfees and the other parents that the teenagers have gone to the Ice House, and they all declare that they don’t know what’s wrong with their kids. Randolph joins in, stating that his older sister and the other teens are “so ridiculous and so immature.”
The adults and the police arrive at the ice house and arrest Conrad, although he doesn’t appear to have done anything illegal. Kim claims she was intimidated by Conrad and gladly returns to Hugo. After a reconciliation with Albert, Rosie tells Albert’s mother, Mae, that she will marry Albert despite Mae’s racist objections, and to irritate her, declares she’s Spanish with a comically exaggerated “Spanish Rose”. Albert bails Conrad out of jail and arranges for him to sneak out of town dressed as a middle-aged woman – presumably so he can report for Army induction as scheduled. Albert gets his mother to leave Sweet Apple bound for home on the same train, getting Conrad and his mother out of his life for good. Albert tells Rosie they’re not going back to New York; they’re going to Pumpkin Falls, Iowa, a small town in need of an English teacher. Albert professes that everything is rosy with Rosie, and they go off together happily engaged as Rosie had always dreamed.
An extensive number of HMS students, with help from their Alvirne High mentors, spun together creativity and hard work to create a fantastic production that was well beyond their years. The rest of the exceptional acting ensemble not yet mentioned included Tommy Peaslee, Sophia Badolato, Alexandra Suppa, Lisette Beauchemin, Molly Macklin, Liah Simpson, Mark Kushakji, Mackenzie Franek, Alyson Mooers, Madison Taylor, Michael Gregoire, Owen Kelly, Joseph Allision and Cody Sullivan. Additionally, the acting ensemble, who offered support in numerous scenes, was comprised of HMS students: Alyssa Abbott, Zoe Beyor, Connor D’Amico, Reilly Douglas, Victoria Duffy, Emma Eldredge, Morgan England, Hayley Forte, Kaden Garnick, Ashley Green, Ainsley Horton-Sousa, Fatoumatta Jallow, Hannah Kraus, Skye Merrow, Shannon Nagle, Kendall Nangle, Liliana Nunn, Elaine Quarles, Lily Schneider and Alia Zagzoug.
Providing amazing music to elevate the production were Alvirne students who made up the orchestra: Samantha Fowler, Maria Chouinard, Ben Costantini, Jack Gasdia, Lisa Hansen, Josh Costantini, Murray Reynolds, Ashley Somers, Maria Franciosa, Allyson Cahill, Sophia Garas, Marisa Morin, Samuel Twining and Alex Fitzpatrick.
Two sky-high thumbs up to everyone involved in this the twelfth musical production of the Hudson Memorial School Drama Club.