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Bye Bye Birdie

Truly a fun night at the Kennedy Center for the whole family.

The story of Bye Bye Birdie is an oldie, but goodie. This production is so good. The story takes place in 1962, popular singer, superstar, Conrad Birdie, receives his Army draft notice and his fans are distraught. The character of Conrad Birdie is based Elvis Presley, who was drafted in 1958.

The play revolves around Birdie going on the Ed Sullivan show, and singing a song by unsuccessful song-writer Albert Peterson, called “One Last Kiss.” They have a contest on which girl will get the last kiss before Birdie goes into the Army. Albert wants this to succeed so he can then marry his longtime secretary and girlfriend, Rosie Alvarez. 

The contest winner is the Birdie Fan Club President from Ohio, Kim MacAfee, and that is where Conrad’s farewell performance and Kiss will occur, and be on the Ed Sullivan show. The whole town, along with Kim’s family, gets involved. I think today most people of a certain age will remember this from the original Broadway play which starred Dick Van Dyke as Albert, and Chita Rivera, as Rosie. The Kennedy Center has dedicated this production to Chita Rivera. It is directed by Marc Bruni, with choreography by Denis Jones, and music direction by John Bell.

Bye Bye Birdie
Ephan Sykes and Company  Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

This production opens with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra on stage, musical director, John Bell, performing an overture. They are superb, and let you know it will be a fun evening.  I remembered all the great songs from the show as they were playing. The music is by Charles Strauss, and lyrics by Lee Adams. The songs include; "Bye Bye Birdie" – "How Lovely to Be a Woman" – "Put on a Happy Face" – "Kids" -"One Last Kiss”  and "Rosie".  

The cast is extremely talented, acting, singing, and dancing. Beginning with the talented Christian Borle as Albert Peterson, who is fun to watch, and listen too. Then there is the effervescent Krysta Rodriguez, as Rosie, who commands the stage with her acting, dancing, and incredible voice. She is a real star.  Then Ashlyn Maddox, as Kim MacAfee is great, with a beautiful voice, and wonderful stage presence.  Then the talented and funny Richard Kind as her father, Harry MacAfee, is wonderful. And you get to enjoy the very talented Caroline Aaron as Mrs. Mae Peterson, Alberts long suffering mother.  Ephraim Sykes is Birdie. 

Add to all this the incredibly talented rest of the cast whose dancing, singing, and comedic talent are a joy to watch and listen too. Miquel Gil as Hugo Peabody, Kim’s boyfriend, is a talent to watch as is Jakera Davis as Ursala Merkle.  

The creative team has done a brilliant job taking you to a set that surrounds the orchestra. Scenic Designer Lee Savage, Costume Designer Linda Cho, Lighting Design Cory Pattak, Sound Design Haley Parcher, Hair, and Wig design Tom Watson.

Bye Bye Birdie will have a very limited run from June 7–15, in the Eisenhower Theater. Grab a ticket today if you can.