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'Bye, Bye Birdie' flies into Charles Town theater

Comedic look at '50s and '60s debuts tonight at Old Opera House

Comedic look at '50s and '60s debuts tonight at Old Opera House

May 15, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Happiness is only a poodle skirt away in Old Opera House Theatre Company's production of "Bye, Bye Birdie."

The musical, set in the teenage rock 'n' roll heyday of the 1950s, debuts today at Old Opera House.

"This is kind of a tongue-in-cheek look at the '50s and '60s," said director Steve Brewer.

"Bye, Bye Birdie" made its Broadway debut in the 1960s, with Dick Van Dyke taking a lead role as Albert Peterson, an agent in the music biz whose only client, pseudo-Elvis Conrad Birdie, is drafted into the military.

The plot is built around the publicity scheme Peterson's fiancée cooks up for Birdie: He'll give one last show, where an adoring fan will get a kiss live on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Tensions between Peterson, his fiancée and his overbearing mother add some layers to the plot -- on top of the drama stirred up by the jealous boyfriend whose girlfriend is about to get kissed by a rock star and the girl's father who's obsessed with being on TV.

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Alan Havner, 32, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., is cast as Peterson. Havner said he favors musicals over straight plays and comedies. His dream role would be the "Phantom" in "The Phantom of the Opera."

In "Birdie," however, Havner will sing "Put on a Happy Face," a song Brewer said most people don't associate with "Bye, Bye Birdie."

But the song does, perhaps, embody the wholesome, nostalgic vibe Brewer says this play emits. Costuming, vintage props and props made to look vintage add to the nostalgia. During a play rehearsal days before opening night, the cast's Chuck Taylors, slim, cuffed jeans and swingy a-line dresses felt authentic and, yes, wholesome, when it could have easily gone the other way -- a bunch of actors playing dress up.

Actor Phil Bakin, 50, of Kearneysville, W.Va., is cast as the TV-obsessed father, Mr. MacAfee, said he's not a fan of performing in musicals.

But Bakin said he liked "Birdie" because it wasn't like the standard Broadway fare, "with the 70-piece symphony orchestras and people coming in from the wings and suddenly, what happened to our nice quiet street? It's filled with a 70-piece orchestra and 40 dancers. That's not my style," Bakin said.




If you go ...



WHAT: "Bye, Bye Birdie," presented by Old Opera House Theatre Company

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today and Thursday, May 22; 8 p.m. Fridays, May 16 and 23, Saturdays, May 17 and 24; and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, May 18 and 25.

WHERE: Old Opera House, 204 N. George St., Charles Town, W.Va.

COST: Tickets cost $12 on Thursdays, $16 on Fridays and Saturdays, and $14 on Sundays. Students pay $8 for all performances.

MORE: Call 304-725-4420 or go to www.oldoperahouse.org for more information.

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