The Edmond Sun

Local News

June 28, 2012

Lyric back on top with 'Bye Bye Birdie'

EDMOND — After a departure from tradition with its last choice of musical, Lyric Theatre is back on top once again with this first summer nostalgic delight, “Bye Bye Birdie.” I can’t remember what I wore yesterday, but I found myself knowing all the words to all of the songs. I’ve seen the movie more times than I can count and I have seen quite a few high school and community productions of it as well.

This is such a fun musical. Directed and choreographed by Lyn Cramer, this show is extremely well done, with lovely stage pictures and well-timed choreographed moments. “The Telephone Hour” produced teenagers from everywhere; “Put on a Happy Face” included an old-fashioned tap dance with Albert (David Elder) and the teens.

Elder’s voice is an absolute knockout. He can sound like an old-fashioned crooner, as he did in the second act with “Baby Talk to Me,” and other times his rich, resonant voice is just plain powerful. His good looks make him a strong lead and perfect love interest for the spunky little Rosie (Kat Nejat). This girl stole the show with her amazing dance ability and comic timing. She could tug at your heartstrings when she sang and danced, as she did in the first act with “One Boy,” but she blew us away with laughter in “The Shriner’s Ballet” when she paid a little visit to the Shriners meeting. Hilarious.

Albert’s mother is the typical long-suffering, suffocating individual who smothers her son. She is also very funny. I must remember to borrow some of her lines: “Don’t hire a limousine to take me to my final resting place, I’ll walk.” And “When you come back by, take my head out of the oven and turn off the gas.”

The whole show takes place in 1959 and it’s a spoof on Elvis. Eric Ulloa plays Conrad Birdie, who has been drafted and is going to kiss one lucky teenage girl goodbye before he goes off to fight in the war. He’s not your pinnacle of virtue by any stretch of the imagination. He is a belching, beer-guzzling, cigarette smoking, singing fool. When he croons and gyrates across the stage, the women go crazy and faint and the audience howls with delight.

A nod goes to Monte Riegel Wheeler who played Harry MacAfee, the father. He played an older part and he did a perfect Paul Lynde voice and prance (the original actor in the movie who played the father). Both Wheeler and Mandy Jiran, who plays his wife, Doris, did a great job on the song in the second act, “Kids.” Meredith Tyler plays the dreamy daughter who wins the contest to kiss Birdie and her little brother, Randolph, is a cute addition played by Sam Brown. Edmond’s Chad Anderson is the Mayor, Abbie Ruff and Caitlin Belcik, both of Edmond, are apprentices.

The only casting with which I disagreed was the part of the boyfriend, Hugo Peabody (Elliott Mattox). Bobby Rydell played it in the movie and I felt the part should have been played by a dumb jock type. Mattox took the part in a different direction. He was funny and entertaining, but I didn’t feel it was the right interpretation for the part. It wasn’t the right flavor for the ’50s. But, that’s a minor mishap and is just a difference of opinion on interpretation.

This is a terrific show. Go back in time for one evening. “Bye Bye Birdie” will make you forget elections, the world’s troubles and poor championship outcomes and if you’re a baby boomer, I bet you’ll even remember the words to the songs.

 The show is at the Civic Center Music Hall. Remaining performances are 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, 8 p.m. on Friday, and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday. For tickets visit LyricTheatreOKC.com, call 524-9312 or visit Lyric’s box office at 1727 N.W. 16th St. in Oklahoma City.

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