Latest theatre production brings audience to previous era
With “Talley’s Folly” closing this Saturday, the theatre department isn’t slowing down.
“Bye Bye Birdie” will be opening next Thursday night in the Ted Paul Theatre and will be the closing musical for the sesquicentennial season.
Set in 1958 and inspired by Elvis Presley during his Army draft, “Bye Bye Birdie” spotlights Conrad Birdie, a rock and roll star and teen heart-throb.
When Birdie is drafted into the Army, his agent, Albert Peterson, is lofted into a panic. In an attempt to help, his secretary and girlfriend, Rosie Alvarez, compile a plan to have one last hurrah before he’s sent across the world.
In order to have her help, Albert must promise to start teaching English in schools after Birdie is gone and drop the music business. Together, they decide to have Conrad sing a new song written by Albert titled “One Last Kiss” and one lucky girl from his thriving fan club will be able to send him off with a goodbye kiss.
The girl that every other teen would kill to be is fifteen-year-old Kim McAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio. Recently, Kim started going steady with Hugo Peabody and is so excited to have a boyfriend that she claims to be more “mature” and quits the Conrad Birdie fan club via telephone.
Showing up in Sweet Apple, Conrad receives a hero-like welcome which worries Hugo that Kim will want Conrad instead of him.
Becoming a guest in the McAfee household, Conrad doesn’t make a great impression on Kim’s father, thus making him not want his daughter to kiss this selfish rock star. Birdie is able to turn it around quickly when he informs Mr. McAfee that their family will be on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Hugo’s jealousy of Conrad grows when he sees Kim’s attraction grow. Coming out of nowhere, Albert’s mother, Mae Peterson, attempts to convince him to replace Rosie as his secretary with Gloria Rasputin, an aspiring tap-dancer.
This upsets Rosie and as a result, she dreams of many ways she could murder Albert. Deciding not to kill her sweetheart, she and Hugo hatch a plan to ruin the broadcast. As Conrad is about to kiss Kim after he sings “One Last Kiss”, Hugo runs onstage and punches him in the face, causing him to faint.
From this failed broadcast, plans are made to re-film but this encourages Kim and Rosie to break up with their significant others.
Kim sneaks out of the house after her father stops her from trying to leave with Rosie. Wanting to enjoy his last night before being shipped across the world, Conrad encourages the teens to go out.
The Ice House is the place to be in Sweet Apple for teens who want to party without adult supervision. All of the teens head there along with Kim and Conrad, without Hugo.
When Mr. McAfee finds out Kim is missing, Hugo snitches on the teens and reveals where they go to party.
When asked, Director, Melissa Rosenberger wasted no time telling what her favorite parts of working on this show were.
“My favorite part for this show is the fact that it’s a time era that so many things are not a part of our world now and it wasn’t a time I grew up in. [But] it’s nostalgic for me because it’s a time that starts to blend in with my youthful days so I just feel nostalgic about my parents’ upbringing. I think about my parents being the kids and we’re just getting to the point where things in history are recognizable to me from my earlier days. It’s kind of fun to play in that world,” she said.
“We’re doing a lot of film as part of this live show and that’s forced us to look at commercials from that time. We actually made a film, so the first scene in the show isn’t live,” she said. “It’s just fun seeing the world of TV in that time because the show talks so much about it. I’m also excited because our season has had some heavier topics and I think ending with a musical comedy is going to be the one yellow balloon in the sky.”
“Bye Bye Birdie” opens this upcoming weekend, running Thursday, April 5 through April 7. The show will re-open the following weekend on April 12 and will close on April 15. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on April 5, 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14 as well as two matinee performances on April 14 and 15 in the Ted Paul Theatre.
Tickets are available to purchase online at http://www.mnsu.edu/theatre/, by phone at 507-389-6661 or in-person at the box office Monday-Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. Regular tickets for “Bye Bye Birdie” sell for $22, discounted for seniors at $19 and are $17 for Minnesota State University, Mankato students.
Photo: Conrad Birdie (Billy Gleason) is a rock & roll idol, and 15-year-old Kim McAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio (Megan Fischer) is the girl who wins a kiss from him. (Courtesy of Amanda Dyslin)