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Posted: Apr 13, 2009  10:47

"Bye Bye Birdie" Was A Soaring Good Time


For fun family entertainment on a cold Friday evening, the Broadway production of "Bye Bye Birdie" had it all. Sponsored by Friends of the Arts, the performance was filled with amusing characters, exuberant choreography, vibrantly colorful costumes, and a fun story line that left the audience breathless with laughter. Since 1960, this musical comedy has been enchanting audiences with its humor and non-stop action. It is the winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. The live music provided by the orchestra enhanced the experience for the Bonners Ferry audience and made the play leap to life on the Becker Auditorium stage.

Jerry Pavia, chairman of Friends of the Arts, said, "Friends of the Arts was very pleased with the turnout. It showed that the community will support bringing high class performances to our small community. It was a very high-level production. You could tell that the actors could have been performing on Broadway."

A parody of Elvis Presley getting drafted into the Army in 1957, and the frenzy that followed, "Bye Bye Birdie" captured the nostalgia of the 1950's complete with poodle skirts, pedal pushers and cat-eye glasses.

The play centers around Conrad Birdie, a rock star sensation of the time, and the outrage of the nation's teenagers who were determined to save him from military service. Conrad's manager, Albert, and his secretary, Rose, come up with a plan to randomly choose an American teenage girl for Conrad to kiss good-bye before boarding the train for his induction. Almost completely broke, they take a gamble that the hit record that would accompany the kiss and get them out of debt so that Albert can accomplish Rose's goal: that Albert would become an English teacher and marry her.

Adding further comedy to the situation, Albert's ever-suffering mother uses guilt and hypochondria to control her son in order to prevent him from?marrying Rose.

When Kim McAfee, a simple 15-year-old girl from Sweet Apple, Ohio is chosen to receive Conrad's farewell kiss, the entire town turns into a circus as Conrad's entourage invades the town, causing havoc among the townspeople, the McAfee family, and inciting the town's teenagers to rebel against parental authority.

Rose becomes fed up with Albert's refusal to commit and decides to "paint the town red," ending up at a Shriner's meeting with very comic results.

Kim decides to run away from home to go with Conrad, her boyfriend goes berserk and gets drunk on milk, her father rages through the town in his pajamas armed with a sling shot and a pea shooter.

The town teenagers decide that they too are going to accompany Conrad, so their parents, dressed in pajamas, join the hysterical chase sequence.

Eventually, order is restored, and Albert finally finds the nerve to tell his mother to go home and asks Rose to marry him. Kim returns to her family and boyfriend and Conrad joins the military, just as Elvis did.

Audience member Shirley Purdey said, "I thought it was excellent and I think they should have more performances like this. It was a great thing for Bonners Ferry. People go to Spokane for things like this, and to have a production like this here was really tops."

High school sophomore and theater student Taylor Dinning was equally enthusiastic about the performance. "I really enjoyed the show," she said. "It inspired me to be more involved with our local productions and I really hope others in the community will as well."

Pavia spoke with the cast and the performers, and said they were very grateful for the enthusiasm that came from the Bonners Ferry audience. He said that from the moment the play began, the cast felt that the audience was with them, which pumped them up to perform at a higher caliber. Pavia said that the cast has experienced other audiences who were not as supportive and enthusiastic, but this was not the case in Bonners Ferry.

Obviously, the audience enjoyed "Bye, Bye Birdie" so much that they gave the performers a standing ovation.

"They drove eleven hours to get here," said Pavia. "They arrived in Bonners Ferry at 4:30 in the afternoon and performed at 7:30 that evening. They were so appreciative of the reception they received here in Bonners Ferry."


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