Sayville High School’s recent presentation of Bye, Bye, Birdie portrayed by two distinctive casts, was full of “glorious sound” and the comic flurries of squealing teenagers, a popular rock and roll star inducted into the Army, a struggling songwriter and his beleaguered girlfriend/secretary, conservative parents in Sweet Apple, Ohio, an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and a most memorably meddlesome momma.
Once again, thanks to the unique, long-standing Director-Producer’s tradition of double-casting, Bye, Bye, Birdie showcased an array of talented students who sang, danced, and acted their way through four nights of production. And each night, as is with the vagaries of “live” theatre, the performances built upon the chemistry of its players. The story opens with the upsetting news that singing idol Conrad Birdie has been drafted:
- upsetting to Conrad Birdie’s teenage fandom, led by the “snarling, raging, panting, jungle beast” Ursula Merkle (played with hilarious hysterics by both dynamic Qxiara Tomasetti and bright Mollie Drinkwater).
- upsetting to his manager Albert Peterson who foresees financial ruin and the end of his songwriting career in ALMAELOU Music Corp with the departure of its one star. (Both comedic actors, Liam Hofmeister and Matt Spina, who played Albert, had impressive singing and acting styles for the hapless hero and fretful “Momma’s Boy.”)
Albert’s fast-thinking secretary and oft-overlooked sweetheart, “Spanish Rose” Alvarez, proposes a publicity stunt that would truly capitalize on Conrad’s conscription. (The seasoned talents of Kailey Schnurman enriched Rosie with snappy personality and amazing voice, while the winsome Kiera Muscara blended her wonderful acting and vocal performances with passionate heart and soul.) Rosie’s plan hinges on a farewell song, entitled “One Last Kiss,” that Albert must write for Birdie to sing on The Ed Sullivan Show, followed by a real last kiss given to one lucky fan.
Randomly chosen from the Birdie Fan Club to be kissed by Conrad, Kim MacAfee (played ever so sweetly by petite Denise Natoli and with savory spice by lissome Kim Colavito) of Sweet Apple, Ohio was already the talk of the town because she and her boyfriend, Hugo Peabody (convincingly brought to teen-angst life by both Ben Diehl and Derek Hartnett), got pinned and were finally going steady.
As they “confer” in the SWEET SHOP about Conrad, the news of their singing idol coming to small-town America fans the flames of frenzy among Ursula and the Sweet Apple girls Deborah Sue, Ruth Ann, Penelope, Connie, Suzie and Holly (enjoyably performed with entertaining comedy and great musicality each night by two teams of Fan Club members: Marissa Casazza-Samantha Schenkel; Shannon Lynch-Valerie Murray; Melina Guida-Danielle Post; Elizabeth Larkin-Kimberly Miller; Heather Leahy-Katya Sparwasser; and Julie Magnani, Gabrielle Kalomiris).
Arriving by train, the “honestly sincere” heartthrob Birdie leaves a great impression, one way or another, on everyone in Sweet Apple. (Embodying the charismatic, hip-swaying title role were the sonorous Matt Iovino, bringing everyone to their knees with his golden jumpsuit and twanging guitar as well as the crooning Miles Whittaker whose musically commanding performance charmed female hearts of all ages.)
At first displeased by the whole Conrad Birdie phenomenon, head-of-the-MacAfee-household, Harry (played with bluster and bristle by Alex Sneddon and Christian Savini) has his head turned upon discovering the last kiss would be televised by “our fav'rite host—Ed Sullivan!” Harry, Doris (pleasing sopranos Stephanie Seredenko and Alexis Skalkowski) Kim and Randolf (a small part with big personalities provided by Brian Walsh and Jake Vail) lead a host of adults in a rousing chorus in “Hymn for a Sunday Evening.”
Everyone swoons for Birdie except self-adsorbed Mae Peterson, Albert’s mother and one-third partner in ALMAELOU Music. Mae’s sole purpose in life is to make Rosie and Albert miserable, doing everything possible to split the couple with the most effective of weapons—martyrdom! (Garnering the biggest laughs for Mae’s antics were the two comic performers Alexandria Logrippo and Alyssa Coia who each gave the expression “misery loves company” new meaning—the more miserable Mae was, the more audiences loved her company.)
Supporting players played up their parts with comic effect, from the amusing Teen Quartet (Meghan Marshall, Meghan Gunther, Kayla Stocket, Jordyn Grimes), the “Sad Girls” dancers (Valerie Murray, Shannon Lynch, Taylor Marshall, Justine Parcelluzzi), to the Shriners at Maude’s, making significant contributions in the musical that produced such favorites as We Love You Conrad, Put on a Happy Face, A Lot of Livin; To Do, and Kids.
With the comedy stage beset by wacky characters, the actual stage was set with elaborate scenery, the most impressive being the staging for Telephone Hour with 10 teenagers “talking” from their bedroom-compartments that lit up on cue. (As a special feature in Saturday’s production, each room had double-occupancy to include the previous night’s performers—a nice send off for both casts!)
“The members of the company of Bye, Bye, Birdie pulled it together,” Director Steven Hailey explained in the musical’s program, despite the challenges of the “six-week production schedule (35 rehearsals with a double cast), coordinating the personal schedules of over 100 performers, musicians and crew members, conflicts with sports, music, college interviews and auditions, dance competitions, and having a one-week break in the middle of production.
"I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with so many talented people," said Hailey.