The teens seem to be falling head over heels for Conrad Birdie, portrayed by Miguel Rodriguez, in the Rainbow Players’ production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Showcase Theater. Tickets are general admission and can be bought at First National Bank of Liberal and from all members of the cast. Daily Leader photo/Robert Pierce
Cast looking forward to presenting rockin,’ rollin,’ musical comedy
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
On March 24, 1958, Elvis Presley was inducted into the U.S. Army as a private at Fort Chaffee, near Fort Smith, Ark., and hundreds of people descended on the King as he stepped from the bus, and photographers then accompanied him into the base.
Originally titled “Let’s Go Steady,” the musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” is a satire on American society set in 1958. The story was inspired by the phenomenon of Presley and his draft notice into the Army.
This Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the local theater group Rainbow Players will bring the story to life on the stage of Seward County Community College/Area Technical School’s Showcase Theater.
Jim Karlan, who plays Harry Macafee in the musical, explained what happens to Conrad Birdie after it is announced he is going into the Army.
“Conrad has a manager called Albert, who is the male lead in the show,” Karlan said. “He has a secretary who is also his girlfriend named Rosie. Rosie wants him to get out of the business, and he says, ‘I got this one thing I gotta do, and I can maybe get out of the business. That is I’ve got to get Conrad Birdie some sort of thing before he goes into the Army, and I’ve gotta fulfill this contract.’”
Karlan said Rosie, played by director, Allison Bridget Chambers, comes up with an idea of picking from fan clubs the name of Kim Macafee, Harry’s daughter, in Sweet Apple, Ohio.
“(Rosie) calls and get hold of them, and then, a whole series of things are set in motion to where finally, Conrad comes to Sweet Apple,” Karlan said. “It’s total chaos because her family is really upset about what is going on. Part of it is things are not going right between her mother and her father and her, and the other teenagers are running amuck while their parents are saying, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on?’”
Karlan said this theme plays out through the entire play.
“At the end of course, boy gets girl, they’re happy and live happily ever after,” he said. “Conrad goes off to the Army.”
Karlan said a key scene in Bye Bye Birdie concerns a press conference, in which the press is attacking Conrad, and Albert and Rosie defend him in a song called “A Healthy, Normal American Boy.”
“It’s a really big number,” he said. “Then you get into Conrad’s theme song, ‘Honestly Sincere.’ Then you go into the ‘Hymn for Sunday Evening,’ where the family finds out they’re going on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’”
Karlan said he put in the program for the production that “Ed Sullivan is basically the American Idol of the 1950s.”
“The father (Harry), who’s a real grouch through this whole thing, when he finds out he’s going to be on the Ed Sullivan Show, and he loves Ed Sullivan, they start singing, and it sounds like a choir,” he said.
Karlan said the second act contains two cute songs, one in particular called “Kids.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Macafee, and later the whole adult cast, talks about how they just don’t understand kids today,” he said. “They’re not perfect like we were when we were children, which is totally untrue.”
Karlan next pointed to some humorous scenes, including Rosie breaking into a Shriner’s convention and parents being upset with the teenagers doing many things with Conrad.
“They’re all out their mind about their kids running around with Conrad Birdie,” he said. “It ends with a song between Albert and Rosie.”
Karlan called Bye Bye Birdie a “funny, funny musical.”
“It’s got good tunes,” he said. “It’s a musical comedy. It’s almost like a farce, but it’s a musical comedy.”
Karlan said practices for the musical have been going very well.
“This is right on schedule,” he said. “You want it to build to opening night and your nights after that, and it’s building very nicely. Some shows you bite your fingernails on. We’re not biting our fingernails on this one. This cast is really picking things up very quickly.”
Karlan said the cast did the musical Wednesday night with the symphony for the first time, and he said there were very few glitches.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It’s coming along very well. The cast is pulling together. We have no major problems with the show at all. It’s really good. It’s really going very well.”
The Rainbow Players, who have not performed a musical since 2007, did move this year’s performance back from its usual time schedule.
“This year, because of people’s schedules who are going to be in the musical, we had to put it back to the end of July instead of the end of June,” Karlan said. “We’re going about three weeks later than we usually do. We started musical rehearsals in May and dramatic rehearsals about the second week of June.”
Performances of Bye Bye Birdie will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Showcase Theater. Tickets are general admission and can be bought at First National Bank of Liberal and from all members of the cast.