July 25, 2006 > Exciting Bye Bye Birdie performance in Newark
Exciting Bye Bye Birdie performance in Newark
by Arnie Becker
On opening night, Stage 1 Children's Theater in Newark presented a lively, well-staged, and well-acted performance of Bye Bye Birdie. It was performed by children from kindergarten to college age with a level of skill not often seen in a cast so young and relatively inexperienced. For a significant number of the cast, this was a first performance but it surely did not show. The play, written by Michael Stewart with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, was first performed in 1960 with Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde and Susan Watson.
For those not familiar with Bye Bye Birdie, the plot revolves around rock and roll superstar Conrad Birdie and the complications that arise when his agent (Albert) stages a publicity stunt on the Ed Sullivan Show in which he, Birdie, will kiss one lucky girl from Sweet Apple, Ohio goodbye before being drafted into the army. Albert is convinced that if he can pull off this stunt, he will make his fortune and marry his girlfriend Rosie.
Thursday's performance by the Stage 1 Children's Theatre was directed by Belinda Maloney, now in her third year with the group. The cast included Danny Englese as Conrad Birdie, James Carter as Albert Peterson, Christi Wallace as Rose Alvarez, Ignacio Espinoza as Mr. MacAfee (Harry), Breana Meagher as Mrs. MacAfee (Doris), Rachel Lazaro as Kim MacAfee and Trevor Meyer as Hugo Peabody (the boyfriend).
Something that you don't always see, even in adult theater productions, is a live orchestra. The opening night orchestra was led by Livia Thomas, who also played piano. Rounding out the group was Alan Adam, bass, Carl Rosenblum, guitar, Patty Connor, reed instruments and Michael Roberts, drums.
If I had to pick two performers who stood out for poise, acting ability and voice it would have to be Christi Wallace and James Carter. Christi played Rose Alvarez with skill, a very strong voice and acting that did not miss a beat. James came across as an adult who really enjoyed setting up the plot on the Ed Sullivan Show and who portrayed his love for Rosie in a way that felt real. That said, it was hard to pick out a serious misstep among the rest of the cast. Even the very youngest children were poised, spirited, and very mature. There was a twinkle, a spring in their steps and sparkle that gave an unmistakable energy to the whole performance.
The costuming was in keeping with period dress and even though worn by children it looked right in place. The sets were well designed and set changes were carried out professionally without distracting from the current scene.
While it would be great to be able to give everyone credit where credit is due, there just is not enough space to list everyone who made this show an opening night success.
The play continues at the Newark Memorial High School Theatre on Thursday, Friday and Saturday through July 30 at 8 p.m. There will be a Sunday matinee on July 30 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children. For information go online to www.stage1theatre.org or call (510) 791-0287.
Bye Bye Birdie
Thursday-Saturday, through July 30
Sunday, July 30 matinee
Newark Memorial High School Theatre
39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark