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'Bye Bye Birdie' takes Mt. Pleasant performers back to the '50s

Mary Pickels
| Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 9:00 p.m.

Several of the cast members for Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School's production of the musical “Bye Bye Birdie” acknowledge they were unfamiliar with the story, set in the late 1950s.

They did their research, watching movie versions and, several say, falling in love with the characters and the songs.

And they clearly enjoy strutting around the auditorium stage in full skirts, fake fur and leather jackets.

Director Rich Bair, district musical wrangler for a seventh time, says that unfamiliarity makes this particular show a bit more challenging.

“We base (our selection) on what we think the community will support and what we think will fill the auditorium,” he says.

“I think they are enjoying it. There are a lot of fun songs,” says Josh Kinneer, 2016 district graduate and assistant director.

“Bye Bye Birdie” tells the tale of rock and roll star Conrad Birdie, preparing to be drafted. Unsuccessful songwriter Albert Peterson sees his fortune — and his hopeful marriage to girlfriend Rose Alverez — tied to getting Birdie on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and kissing a swooning high school girl before heading off to war.

Peterson's mother, Mae Peterson, conspires to keep her son from marrying Rose.

Teen Kim MacAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio, is the lucky girl picked to peck Birdie goodbye.

Junior Jordan Zelmore, 16, plays the overprotective mama, Mae Peterson.

“As soon as I heard the soundtrack, I fell in love with it,” she says.

Martin Trach, 17, tackles the lead role with brooding gusto.

“People encouraged me to try out for the role. It seems a suitable part for me, with my (deep) voice and appearance,” the junior says.

“I did a lot of research for it. I would say the songs are the best part for me, but I like acting, too,” Trach says.

Junior Danny Ebeling, 17, says he plays Harry MacAfee as a “stereotypical '50s dad.”

“But he has a little comedic side that makes it lighter,” he adds.

The son of music teachers, he was a little more familiar with the musical, and is enjoying a solo spot in the song “Kids.”

Senior Eric DeSabato, 18, is getting a kick out of “playing older,” a mid-30s character.

And he enjoys belting out songs including “Rosie” (a duet), “Baby, Talk to Me” and “Put On a Happy Face.”

Senior Jenna Toohey, 17, has the role of starstruck — but true to her boyfriend — Kim MacAfee.

She's enjoying the songs, and learning the dance numbers.

“It's kind of cool to go out of my comfort zone (with dancing),” she says.

“Bye Bye Birdie” will be performed at 7 p.m. April 12-14 in the high school auditorium. Tickets are $10 (VIP), $7 general admission and $3 for students, and will be sold at the door prior to performances.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

Mt. Pleasant Area High School students Martin Trach (Conrad Birdie) and Eric DeSabato (Albert Peterson) rehearse 'Bye Bye Birdie.'
Mary Pickels
Mt. Pleasant Area High School students Martin Trach (Conrad Birdie) and Eric DeSabato (Albert Peterson) rehearse 'Bye Bye Birdie.'
Students (from left) Helena Baumgardner (Rose Alverez) and Jordan Zelmore (Mae Peterson), rehearse their roles as (soon-to-be) daughter-in-law and mother-in-law for the Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School production of 'Bye Bye Birdie.'
Mary Pickels
Students (from left) Helena Baumgardner (Rose Alverez) and Jordan Zelmore (Mae Peterson), rehearse their roles as (soon-to-be) daughter-in-law and mother-in-law for the Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School production of 'Bye Bye Birdie.'
Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School's production of  'Bye Bye Birdie,' set for April 12-14, includes cast members Jenna Toohey (Kim MacAfee) and Martin Trach (Conrad Birdie).
Mary Pickels
Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School's production of 'Bye Bye Birdie,' set for April 12-14, includes cast members Jenna Toohey (Kim MacAfee) and Martin Trach (Conrad Birdie).
Cast members rehearse an ensemble number for Mt. Pleasant Senior High School's April 12-14 production of the musical 'Bye Bye Birdie.'
Mary Pickels
Cast members rehearse an ensemble number for Mt. Pleasant Senior High School's April 12-14 production of the musical 'Bye Bye Birdie.'
Readying for their April 12-14 production of 'Bye Bye Birdie,' Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School students rehearse a song and dance number.
Mary Pickels
Readying for their April 12-14 production of 'Bye Bye Birdie,' Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School students rehearse a song and dance number.
Jordan Zelmore (mother Mae Peterson) and Eric DeSabato (son Albert Peterson) rehearse an antagonistic scene for Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School's musical, 'Bye Bye Birdie.'
Mary Pickels
Jordan Zelmore (mother Mae Peterson) and Eric DeSabato (son Albert Peterson) rehearse an antagonistic scene for Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School's musical, 'Bye Bye Birdie.'
Student director Justin Chovanec and assistant director Josh Kinneer, from left, work with the cast members during a recent rehearsal of Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School's musical 'Bye Bye Birdie.'
Mary Pickels
Student director Justin Chovanec and assistant director Josh Kinneer, from left, work with the cast members during a recent rehearsal of Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School's musical 'Bye Bye Birdie.'
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