Bye Bye Birdie-conjuring up memories of Elvis Presley and the fan fervor that greeted a lot of musical acts in the 1950s and '60s-takes center stage at Dickson's Renaissance Center in June as the Renaissance Players present the musical theater classic tonight, June 1 through June 17.
The exuberant musical opens in the Anne Deason Performance Hall at The Renaissance Center, with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees, which will include a special Father's Day Luncheon Show.
"Although the musical takes place in the early 1960s, the idol fever and teenage angst in the story is just as strong with today's teens. The "Telephone Hour" song could easily take place over cell phones and texting-and the fervor over Conrad Birdie could just as well be Justin Bieber," says Pacer Harp, the Renaissance Center's artistic director of theater.
"Dance is another thing that's very popular today, as it was in the 1960s, and plays a big part in the original musical. So we're very excited to see the thrilling dance routines that Bryan Wlas has designed! I know they'll be stunning and the kids are very proud of the work that they've put into the production numbers."
The Renaissance Players production of Bye Bye Birdie is directed by Wlas, who also handles the choreography in the show. The music director is Nathan W. Brown, with Jon Kopischke as assistant director, Nikki Blunt is stage manager, Whitney Petty is assistant stage manager and Michelle Valenti as dance captain. Renaissance theatre crew regulars include Rachel Gallup for costumes, Nathan Ray for lghting and Ray Dryden providing sound design.
Inspired by the story of Elvis Presley being drafted into the Army in 1958, and the ensuing media melee that surrounded his departure, writer Michael Stewart crafted this fictionalized version of teen heartthrob Conrad Birdie (whose name is inspired by then-rock and roll star Conway Twitty). With music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, the original 1961 Broadway production became an instant hit, starring Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde, Dick Gautier, Susan Watson, Kay Medford and Charles Nelson Reilly. The show won four Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Dick Van Dyke), Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography (both for Gower Champion). Chita Rivera was also nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.