‘Bye Bye Birdie’ Puts a Happy Face on the Tower Theater Stage

Rock sensation Conrad Birdie is off to join the Army.  But before the heartthrob musician ships off, Rose Alvarez — secretary and girlfriend of Birdie’s manager Albert Peterson — devises a plan to give Birdie a big send-off and bring in more money.

In Liberty’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie,” Rose hopes that Albert will leave the agency and become an English teacher following Birdie’s successful departure as a result of her scheme. Her plan involves composing a song titled “One Last Kiss” and choosing one lucky female member of Birdie’s loyal fan club to receive the kiss.

The fortunate girl who will receive the televised kiss in her hometown of Sweet Apple, Ohio, is 15-year-old Kim MacAfee, who had just given up her prominent role in the Conrad Birdie Fan Club after she started “going steady” with her new boyfriend Hugo Peabody.  Hugo is jealous of Kim’s attraction to Birdie, and Kim’s father Harry is irritable about the disturbance the rock star’s arrival causes in his home — until he learns that his family will appear on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

Audiences who attended “Bye Bye Birdie” during its run saw the outcome of the rock star’s final performance in small town Ohio, played out with humor and heart at Liberty’s Tower Theater from Feb. 23 – March 4.

“I loved the energy of the show and the comedy of it,” said Maria Reginaldi, the actress who played Rose. “It’s a classic musical comedy but I love the fact that it has so much heart and all the sharp dialogue — that aspect of it.”

Inspired by ‘50s music icon Elvis Presley’s 1957 draft into the U.S. Army and made into a 1963 film starring Dick Van Dyke as Albert, “Bye Bye Birdie” features rock ‘n’ roll music written by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams that echoes the musical’s high-energy story.

“It’s a very lively show with a lot of life and energy,” Abigail Lockhart, a keyboardist in the show’s pit orchestra, said.  “It has a little bit of everything: comedy, romance, music, dance.  It’s been a very fun show to put together.”

Vincent Sadler, who played Conrad Birdie, agreed that the musical had a bit of everything for audiences.

“It’s like a jack of all trades, but even better than just being a jack of all trades it can do all of those things very well and it does it in such a precise manner and with a cool twist on a classic story that most Americans know,” Sadler said.

Accompanying the humor and lively music was a colorful set inspired by shows from the 1950s and ‘60s such as “American Bandstand.”

“I hope it leaves people feeling nostalgic for the ‘50s and what it was like for people who might have lived back then, and for people of this generation I hope it leaves them with the lightheartedness and reminds them what life is all about,” Reginaldi said.  “It’s not about the superstar at the time, but it’s about the person that you love and the people that are meaningful to you.”

Sadler also said he hopes that “Bye Bye Birdie” helped audience members realize the most important people in their lives.

“I would hope that audiences realize what’s most important in their lives,” Sadler said.  “For Albert, it was Rosie, and that his relationship with her was what mattered over everything.  For Conrad specifically, it was the people that cared for him and at the end of the show, he kind of gets dragged off to get shipped off to war, but I think especially in that moment, he realizes how much he cares for the power couple really that is Rosie and Albert.”

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