By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April 26, 2012
There are frenzied teenagers swooning over a rock star, there are hapless parents wondering what’s wrong with the kids today, and there are rock n’ roll numbers that sound innocent and endearing.
Bye Bye Birdie has all it takes to be a high school musical.
And the feeling was reinforced at the Eagle Eye Theatre on Wednesday, April. 25th, where students of Howe Sound Secondary School played Bye Bye Birdie: The Musical with verve and confidence.
Directed by Janice Carroll, and choreographed by Jennifer Carney, the musical tells the story of Conrad Birdie, a rock n roll star whose conscription in the US army upsets his agent and songwriter Albert Peterson.
Albert Peterson’s sweetheart, Rosie Alvarez, convinces him to write “One Last Kiss”, a song that Conrad Birdie would sing before leaving for the Army.
But that is not all.
To add a dramatic flourish to it all, they decidde that Birdie would give one lucky girl a real “last kiss” on The Ed Sulivan Show.
That teenage girl turns out to be fifteen-year-old Kim MacAfee from Sweet Apple, Ohio, a small town where much of the play’s raucous action unfolds.
Hannah Jarvis, who you might recognise from her previous role as Jafar in ‘Aladin’ or Cinderella in ‘Into the Woods’, displays a fine acting streak as a rebellious teenager in love as much with her self-image as a woman as with her awe-inspiring, hip-thrusting rock star whom she is chosen to kiss.
Her destiny is envied and feted by her hysterical teenage friends, most noticeably by Ursula Merkle, played so well by a shrieking, shivering Elaine Bourque.
Emma Wong is no less impressive as Rose Alvarez, the Spanish girl friend of Albert Peterson. Many of the plot twists are centered on her role, and Wong’s acting skills are on ample display as she moves from a heart broken secretary in the first half to a reckless temptress in the second.
Bye Bye Birdie can be seen as pitting urban commercialism against wholesome small town values, but beyond that, it has little political underpinnings. It’s pure and simple musical comedy, one in which even the rock n’ roll songs carry a folk-ish strain.
As Conrad Birdie, Kieran J.R. Devlin carries himself on stage with the self-assured swagger of a rock star. The character is modeled after Elvis Presley, but the audience will see a reflection of a current teenheart throb.
Devlin is best when he’s swining and swaying gracefully to the tunes of A Lot of Livin’ to Do, a song and a state of mind he shares with his swooning teenage fans.
Some actors can enthrall no matter how small their role and it is certainly true of Josie Dickson, who shines as Mae Peterson, the sulky, possessive mother of Albert Peterson.
Dickson’s comic timing fills the theatre with laughter, even if it’s at the expense of Rose Alvarez, the poor girl from whom she wants her son wrenched away.
Stephanie Pawluk, Ryan Deasley, James Kyle, and Jordan Gerrard are also delightful in their respective roles. Go watch it, and expect to be entertained.
Show dates are April 25-28 & May 2-5. Tickets $12/$10 (adult/student & senior) on sale at HSS, Stylezone & the former Billie’s Bouquet.