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Oh, Conrad! Two Quaker Valley teachers cast in Robert Morris University's 'Bye Bye Birdie'

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Osborne Elementary kindergarten teacher Annette Matthews performs in a scene as Gloria Rasputin during a rehearsal of 'Bye Bye Birdie' at Robert Morris University's Massey Hall Thursday, July 11, 2013.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Osborne Elementary music teacher Stephen Donnelly performs in a scene as Albert Peterson during a rehearsal of 'Bye Bye Birdie' at Robert Morris University's Massey Hall Thursday, July 11, 2013.

It's been about a decade since Stephen Donnelly has performed on stage in front of an audience.

Beginning today, the Osborne Elementary School music teacher will take to the stage as Albert Peterson, the manager of teen singing sensation Conrad Birdie, in Robert Morris University Colonial Theater's production of “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Donnelly is joined in the production by Osborne kindergarten teacher Annette Matthews, who performs as Gloria Rasputin — an attractive woman who Peterson's mother meets on the bus and soon attempts to set him up with, hoping he'll move on from his current girlfriend.

The production has given Donnelly a new look into remembering lines and cheoreography, he said.

“The hardest part is memorizing the lines and the music, so now we kind of understand how hard it is for the kids to have to memorize their parts,” said Donnelly, 27, who also directs the elementary school's fifth-grade play each year along with Matthews.

Matthews said she has a few areas outside of the theater she uses to help rehearse on her own time.

“To try to memorize everything, I sing in the car and in the shower,” Matthews, 30, said.

She and Donnelly also practiced together leading up to the show's curtain call, they said.

Set in the 1960s, “Bye Bye Birdie” focuses on teen singing idol Conrad Birdie — an Elvis Presley-like performer.

The show's creators devised the name “Conrad Birdie” from Conway Twitty, who, in the 1950s, was a rival to Presley before turning into a country music legend.

The girlfriend and secretary — Rose Alvarez — of Conrad Birdie's manager devises a plan to have the singing sensation give one last kiss to a girl in his fan club while on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Much of the show takes place in the fictional town of Sweet Apple, Ohio, where kiss winner Kim MacAfee is from.

Residents in the small town excitedly — and some anxiously — await Conrad Birdie's arrival.

Theater isn't Donnelly's only musical forte.

The Crafton resident also is a member of the Pittsburgh-based a capella band, DoubleShot!

The group has performed across the country and at several events in the region.

Matthews and Donnelly agree being in the show will affect how they direct future productions at Osborne.

“We will want to use more stage cues with (the students),” Donnelly said.

In addition to teachers Donnelly and Matthews, seven members of Molly and Brent Stater's family also are in the show's cast.

Playing children and teens from Sweet Apple, Ohio, are Hannah, 16; Adam, 9, and Abigail, 6.

Elizabeth, 14, will portray Deborah Sue Miller — one of Kim MacAfee's best friends; and mom, Molly Stater, will play Kim's mother Doris MacAfee.

Dad Brent Stater will play guitar in the orchestra pit.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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