Yough's small cast shows big talent in 'Bye Bye Birdie'
The students at Yough High School will be transported back to the 1950s, as they take themselves and audiences back to the era for the setting of the musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” the wonderfully enjoyable show that has been entertaining audiences for decades.
“It's a show that I thought would work well with the students that I have,” Director Tracy Kelley said of the show. “I was looking around at shows to do, and this one seemed to fit.”
Although the cast is small at 25 students, Kelley said that they are big on talent and entertainment.
“They are really doing a nice job,” Kelley said, adding that the show has already been running full in rehearsals. “They took to this show really incredibly well.”
The musical is a great comedy, set in the late 1950s, and is based on the character Conrad Birdie, who is likened to Elvis Presley's leaving the world of entertainment when drafted into the Army.
Take a staged and highly publicized “last kiss,” a jealous boyfriend, a shot at fame, an overbearing mother, and other plot lines filled with fun hi-jinx, and you have the making of the phenomenally popular “Bye Bye Birdie.”
“I looked it up, and then I watched it,” cast member Amber Kaska, a junior, said of the show.
Kaska will be playing the lead role of Kim MacAfee, who was played by a young and virtually unknown Ann-Margret in the movie, a part that Kaska said is both fun and a little challenging.
“I really liked Ann-Margret's role,” Kaska said, adding that one of the biggest challenges is the song “How Lovely to be a Woman,” in which she is required to don tomboy attire while singing.
“It's tough to change on stage, and I'm up so high,” she said.
The set was designed and built by volunteers and several members of Kelley's family who are also assisting with costumes and lighting, and cousin Kevin Kelley is once again acting as music director for the show as he has for the past seven years.
“My family is a big support,” Kelley said.
Senior Andrew Veltri, a veteran of the high school musicals who plays Albert Peterson, said of his last production, “This year is kind of bittersweet. I've had a blast. My character is a huge momma's boy. His entire struggle through the show is to find courage. By the end of the show he becomes his own man.”
The director knew that she had some good voices who would be returning from previous shows but was pleasantly surprised when senior Josh Gillott decided to try out for the show as a first-timer.
“He is playing the role of Conrad Birdie, and he's good,” Kelly said. “He even plays his own guitar. We have a Conrad Birdie who actually plays his own music. How great is that?”
Gillott said that he was asked by classmates in previous years as to why he didn't become part of the school's musicals, and this year he decided to take the chance for his last year.
“I just thought, ‘What the heck,'” Gillott said of auditioning. “I couldn't believe it when I saw the cast list.”
Gillott said that not only is he enjoying his first show, he feels that audiences of all ages from the community will also enjoy the staged performances.
“This has been a lot of fun,” Gillott said. “It's a really funny show, and I think that everyone who sees it will like it. If you're not here to see it, then you are missing out.”
“Bye Bye Birdie” will be performed in the Yough High School auditorium March 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. and March 24 at 2 p.m.
Ticket prices will be $8 for adults and $5 for students.
Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.