Previews: BYE BYE BIRDIE at Haines City Theatre

On stage now through March 17, 2024

By: Feb. 28, 2024
Previews: BYE BYE BIRDIE at Haines City Theatre
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Previews: BYE BYE BIRDIE at Haines City Theatre On stage now through March at Haines City Theatre is Bye Bye Birdie, a classic, lighthearted satire of the music industry and the 1950s that will have you tapping your toes and laughing out loud.

Bye Bye Birdie tells the story of Conrad Birdie, a rock-and-roll idol who is drafted into the army and his last publicity stunt before he leaves. His manager and secretary choose Kim MacAfee, a teenage Sweet Apple, Ohio fan, to publicly give him "one last kiss" …. on live TV.

"Hilarity ensues from there," teased director Chris Walsh.

Staging the classic musical was a dream come true for Walsh, who had adored it since childhood. As a board member, the goal was to bring big shows that bring a larger audience to the intimate theatre.

The Tony-award-winning musical features a catchy score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, with songs like "Put on a Happy Face," "The Telephone Hour," and "A Lot of Livin' to Do."

Previews: BYE BYE BIRDIE at Haines City Theatre The colossal cast features Michael DeWolf, Annaliese Bradford, Kristina Marier, Jeremiah Pyle, Kyle Carothers, Teralyn Mergillano, Arlene Pijuan, Ben Tague, Stephanie Ackley Taylor, Tucker Martinez, Wayne Kober, and the ensemble of Madeline Abbott, Madilyn Reed Brown, Mickey Brown, Michelle Dissler, Miles Dissler, Krystalyn Drown, Dare Higgins, Kirstie Kelly, Cheri Kober, Andrew Martinez, Alicia Raulerson, Varaylas Smith, Emma Sparks, Bri Stuart, Max Legendary Wells.

"I was extremely blessed to have the people who showed up for auditions. I found two perfect people to play the romantic leads, Rosie (Annaliese Bradford) and Albert (Michael DeWolf). Neither had done theatre in quite a while, but they decided to jump in and audition. They are the most charismatic people. They were rehearsing night and day, even when there wasn't a rehearsal, working on their dances and music."

Walsh was pleased that the cast eagerly abandoned technology and dove into their 50s roles, a time when texting and cell phones were unheard of.

"It was the thrill of living in the moment, instead of their phones," he says. "It was exciting seeing people connect. No one was in the green room on their phones. They all wanted to connect face-to-face. That was amazing to see."

Previews: BYE BYE BIRDIE at Haines City Theatre The romantic leads, Rosie and Albert, played it straight, while the rest of the cast hammed it up as the comedy relief.

Walsh and choreographer Zan Raynor worked with Kyle Carothers to perfect his moves as Conrad Birdie.

"Zan is the most incredible choreographer I've ever worked with in my 30-plus years of theatre. She can teach anyone to dance,"  Walsh praises, then explains. "We needed those hips moving and that big hair. We talked a lot about Conrad's mannerisms. We wanted an air of entitlement. Like the Justin Biebers and Taylor Swifts of today, Conrad Birdie is what everybody idolizes. We talked about how different it was back when Elvis was an idol. There was no social media. People were still so into him and wanted to know everything he did."

Walsh recalls an unexpectedly funny moment introducing the younger generation to a corded telephone.

"They didn't know how to talk on a corded phone. I had to teach them that this part goes to your ear, and this part goes to your mouth," he says. "I thought, 'Yeah, that's right. They've never seen one of these before.'"

Walsh says that all ages can appreciate Bye Bye Birdie.

"The musical is fun. There's nothing serious about it. It's just a good, friendly show to come and enjoy. There are so many good songs in the show. Our older folks will definitely love the nostalgia; people who know Bye Bye Birdie will love it because we've kept true to the original script. People who've never seen it, I think they will enjoy and understand it because the subject is still relatable today. I hope afterward, audiences are talking about how much fun they had, how much energy the cast had, and how much joy the show brought them," he says. "There's just so much happening in the world right now, and I think this is a good place for people to lose themselves for two and a half hours and forget about all the stuff going on."

Bye Bye Birdie is at Haines City Theatre, 303 Ledwith Ave., now through March 17. Tickets can be purchased online at