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Review: The kids steal the show in Stagemasters 'Bye Bye Birdie'

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Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
From Stagemasters' production of 'Bye Bye Birdie,' the MacAfee Family is (from left) Julie Lang as Kim, Emily Cygrymus as Mrs. MacAfee, Gavin Carnahan as Mr. MacAfee and Joey Coccia as Randolph.

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By Christy Walters
Thursday, July 3, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Kids! What's the matter with kids today? Nothing, at least not those in the Stagemasters production of “Bye Bye Birdie” last weekend at the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth.

Set in the late 1950s, “Bye Bye Birdie” centers around aspiring songwriter Albert Peterson. He is convinced he can make his fortune and marry his girlfriend, Rosie, if he can get rock 'n' roll star Conrad Birdie on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and have him kiss a high-school girl goodbye before he reports for military service.

Albert and Rosie choose Kim MacAfee, a member of the Conrad Birdie fan club from Sweet Apple, Ohio, and her family to go on the Sullivan show. Kim will be Conrad's goodbye kiss.

Rosie sabotages the TV appearance to get back at Albert and his mother, and chaos ensues.

Everything works out in the end, but not before shenanigans and a few dance numbers occur.

Director Lorraine Mszanski and her cast put on phenomenal performances of “Telephone Hour” and “Normal American Boy.”

The actors in the MacAfee family definitely stole the show. Baldwin junior Julie Lang, who played Kim, showcased wonderful vocal talent. Her high notes were crisp and clear. South Park senior Emily Cygrymus and Serra Catholic sophomore Joey Coccia, who played Mrs. MacAfee and Randolph, were entertaining to watch. The audience responded with hearty laughter to their mannerisms and facial expressions.

Elizabeth Forward senior Gavin Carnahan, who played Mr. MacAfee, was a complete performer. Every time he stepped onstage, the audience was in for a treat. Whether it was his amusing way of delivering lines, his comic facial expressions or his relaxed and pleasant singing voice, the audience reacted positively and enthusiastically to his performance.

South Park freshmen Carly Cygrymus and Samantha Hawk and Elizabeth Forward freshman Amy Hotovchin — who played Penelope, Suzy and Margie, respectively — displayed perfect harmonies while singing the “Conrad Birdie Song.” They were also believable in their roles of teenage girls infatuated with the celebrity heartthrob.

Grand Theatre veteran Zachary Mendola and recent South Park graduate Alexis Hawk showcased their vocal talents in the roles of Albert Peterson and Rosie. Mendola's peak moment in came with the final notes of the song “Talk to Me.” He hit an unbelievably high note in falsetto with little effort, which received a great response from the audience.

Hawk did a wonderful job pulling off the complicated role of Rosie. She easily made the transition from stuffy secretary to angry, betrayed girlfriend to sultry “Spanish Rose” — never missing a beat. Her vocal pinnacle came during “What Did I Ever See in Him,” which Hawk delivered with believable anger and passion. Her dancing was also entertaining, as she pulled off the difficult “Shriner's Ballet” number on a small stage.

Matthew Rokicki, a South Park junior, channeled his inner Elvis for the role of Conrad Birdie. Rokicki's voice was good, but his attitude was better, and his performance radiated “cool.”

Finally, Tyler Prah, a senior at Elizabeth Forward, portrayed a wonderful Hugo Peabody, Kim's steady boyfriend. Prah embraced the quirkiness of the role and expertly delivered his lines, all without a microphone. His voice projected easily throughout the medium-sized theater without the aid of technology.

The cast also performed “Family” from the musical “Dreamgirls,” a tradition at all Petite Player and Stagemasters shows since 2008, after curtain call. The moving number showed the true unity of the cast and was the perfect end to a great show.

Christy Walters is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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