BWW Reviews: Say a Happy Hello to BYE BYE BIRDIE in Walnut Creek

BWW Reviews: Say a Happy Hello to BYE BYE BIRDIE in Walnut Creek

Contra Costa Musical Theatre knows how to put on a happy face. You will, too, after two and a half hours of living with Bye Bye Birdie. Inspired by the likes of Elvis Presley, Ed Sullivan and the bright colors and square designs of the 1950's, CCMT's production features its usual high-tech scenic design and familiar faces in lead roles.

Robert Lopez plays Albert Peterson, a music producer, writer and agent with an overbearing mother and an assistant who is much more than a secretary. Lopez established chemistry with his co-star love interest, Nicole Helfer as Rose Alvarez, in previous CCMT productions Sunset Boulevardand Les Miserables. They lead Birdie with Lopez's spry personality and Alvarez's bring-down-the-house-with-laughter "Spanish Rose" number.

Conrad Birdie (handsome and cool Mackenszie Drae), whom Albert manages, has been drafted to fight in the war and Rose determines to surprise one lucky fan with Conrad's "One Last Kiss," live on television. Of course, did you hear? That fan named Kim MacAfee just got pinned by Hugo Peabody (Luke Greenhouse), and the prospect of his girl swooning over a kiss from the Conrad Birdie does not go over well.

Olivia Hytha as Kim starts rough with little shock at the news and a voice that does not entirely fit her opening song "How Lovely to Be a Woman." But soon after, she performs a striking "One Boy" that blends beautifully with background singers. From then on, her voice offers gorgeous harmonies and smooth sounds, and her naïve and modern sensibilities win the show. The MacAfee family takes the spotlight, as well, with the adorable and talented J.D. Cerruti as younger brother Cerruti, Suzie Shepard as the sensible mother, Doris, and the hilarious Scott Phillips as father Harry MacAfee. Director Christina Lazo puts her best foot forward with her comedic staging of Harry's Ed Sullivan Show experience.

Lazo also choreographs the show, give great energy and creativity to exciting numbers like "Telephone Hour" and "Shriners' Ballet." Kelly James Tighe's minimal, but perfect scenic design offers additional treats with giant shriner hats and an actual TV cutout on which the Sullivan show plays. In front of colorful squares and multi-layered sets, the catchy tunes and fantastic cast offer everything from upbeat oldie's style such as "A Lot of Livin' to Do" to lovely ballads like Albert's "Baby Talk to Me."

Opening night saw some minor setbacks in tech and performance, but, as always, CCMT pulled through on its promise to deliver high-quality Broadway musicals.


Contra Costa Musical Theatre
Through November 15 at the Lesher Center

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