BWW Reviews: BYE, BYE BIRDIE Gives Sacramento a Happy Hello

BWW Reviews: BYE, BYE BIRDIE Gives Sacramento a Happy Hello

Every so often a musical comes along that is just pure fun. In a humorous imitation of the likes of Elvis Presley and his fan girls, "Bye, Bye Birdie" became just such a production, followed by two film versions and earning a place in pop culture with well-known songs like "The Telephone Hour" and "Put on a Happy Face." Sacramento Music Circus adds to the entertainment this week with colorful costumes, authentic set pieces and a decked out cast.

Glenn Casale's underplayed direction misses some of the script's exaggerated humor, and Randy Slovacek keeps it simple with his 50's dance-inspired choreography. But Casale also gives his audience a flawless cast in endearing roles, and no matter how often used, the round stage always causes a heartbeat to skip as it lifts up and begins to rotate. With "Birdie," the speckled platform finds its purpose when singer Conrad Birdie (Nathaniel Hackmann with good looks, swaying hips and a voice to make the ladies swoon) gives an impromptu performance in front of Sweet Apple, Ohio's City Hall. The star has come to give "One Last Kiss" to a randomly chosen fan before his draft goes into effect.

Amanda Jane Cooper, whose credits include Glinda in "Wicked," smartly encompasses the conflicting emotions of youth with her hyper, teenage personality as the lucky chosen one, Kim MacAfee. With songs like "How Lovely to be a Woman" and "One Boy" to showcase her vocal skills, Cooper also has some amusing moments with Kim's family that involve growing up, getting "pinned" and appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. Stuart Marland does a killer impersonation of Paul Lynde (Uncle Arthur on "Bewitched") as Mr. McAfee. And Larry Raben makes an adorable mama's boy in the role made famous by Dick Van Dyke, Conrad's manager Albert Peterson.

Raben takes the lead in a lovely rendition of the second act's "Talk to Me," backed up by an exquisite quartet. But Janine DiVita steals the spotlight as Albert's eight-year-long girlfriend slash secretary. While the off-again, on-again relationship takes up much of the musical, Rosie proves the stronger partner. She takes charge of Albert's business and encourages him to become his own man. DiVita's Rosie has incomparable facial expressions, a resilient temperament and a stunning singing voice. Her spoken words are notable, too. The production's comedic timing works best when DiVita is on stage because the actress fits so naturally into her part.

Of course, no one could miss DiVita during the show-stopping "Shriner's Ballet," a hysterical seduction that only live theatre could provide. Such surprising moments gave Tuesday night's opening audience plenty of reasons to "put on a happy face." A Junior Company completed the cast, adding young faces and extra enthusiasm to an already beaming company.

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BYE BYE, BIRDIE
Through July 12
Music Circus
http://www.californiamusicaltheatre.com/

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