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|Bye Bye Birdie|
Original Broadway cast album
1961 West End
1990 U.S. Tour
1995 Television film
2008 Kennedy Center
2009 Broadway Revival
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical|
|Bye Bye Birdie|
Original Broadway cast album
1961 West End
1990 U.S. Tour
1995 Television film
2008 Kennedy Center
2009 Broadway Revival
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical|
Originally titled Let's Go Steady, the satire on American society is set in 1958. The story was inspired by the phenomenon of popular singer Elvis Presley and his draft notice into the Army in 1957. The rock star character's name, "Conrad Birdie," is word play on the name of Conway Twitty. Twitty is best remembered today for his long career as a country music star, but in the late 1950s, he was one of Presley's rock 'n' roll rivals.
The original Broadway production was a Tony Award-winning success. It spawned a London production and several major revivals, a sequel, a 1963 film and a 1995 television production. The show also became a popular choice for high school and college productions.
The producer Edward Padula had the idea for a musical initially titled Let's Go Steady, a "happy teenage musical with a difference". Padula contracted with two writers, and Charles Strouse and Lee Adams wrote seven songs for their libretto. Padula, Strouse and Adams sought Gower Champion as director/choreographer, who until that time had choreographed only a few musicals. (Fred Astaire and Morton DaCosta had already declined.) However, Champion did not like the book and the writers were fired, with Michael Stewart then hired. Stewart wrote an early version titled Love and Kisses, which focused on a couple thinking of divorce, but whose children persuade them to stay together. Champion wanted "something more". "The 'something more' had been right there in the newspaper. Rock-and-roll idol Elvis Presley was drafted into the army in September 1957 and soon left the US for eighteen months in Germany, provoking a media circus that included Elvis giving a specially selected member of the Women's Army Corps 'one last kiss'. After brainstorming, Stewart and Adams "came up with the idea of a rock-and-roll singer going off to the army and its effect on a group of teenagers in a small town in Ohio. The name of the singer initially was 'Ellsworth', which was soon changed to 'Conway Twitty' before we discovered there was already a Conway Twitty who was threatening to sue us, and then, finally, 'Conrad Birdie'."
Agent and songwriter Albert Peterson finds himself in trouble when hip-thrusting rock and roll superstar Conrad Birdie is drafted into the Army. Albert's secretary and sweetheart, Rose Alvarez, comes up with a last-ditch publicity stunt to have Conrad Birdie record and perform a song before he is sent overseas. She makes Albert promise to give up the music business and to start teaching English at schools ("An English Teacher"). They plan to have Birdie sing Albert's new song "One Last Kiss" and give one lucky girl from his fan club a real "last kiss" on The Ed Sullivan Show before going into the Army.
The lucky girl chosen randomly from Conrad's fan club is fifteen-year-old Kim MacAfee from Sweet Apple, Ohio. All the teenagers in Sweet Apple are catching up on the latest gossip about Kim MacAfee and Hugo Peabody going steady ("The Telephone Hour"). Kim, excited to have a boyfriend, reflects on how happy she is with her maturity ("How Lovely to Be a Woman"). Conrad, Albert and Rose set off to Sweet Apple to prepare for the event. Before they depart by train from New York City, local teenage girls are ecstatic to meet Conrad, but one young girl is sad because she thinks that by the time Conrad gets out of the army, she'll be too old for him. Albert advises her to be optimistic ("Put on a Happy Face"). Soon, reporters arrive with questions for Conrad, but Rose, Albert, and the girls answer for him, pushing away tabloids ("Normal, American Boy"). Conrad receives a hero's welcome in Sweet Apple, and Hugo worries that Kim likes Conrad more than she likes him, but Kim assures Hugo that he's the only one she loves ("One Boy"). Conrad shocks the town's parents and drives the teenage girls crazy with his performance of "Honestly Sincere".
Conrad becomes a guest in the MacAfee house and irritates Kim's father, Harry MacAfee, by being a rude and selfish guest. Mr. MacAfee does not want Kim to kiss Conrad until Albert tells him their whole family will be on The Ed Sullivan Show. Mr. and Mrs. MacAfee, Kim, and her younger brother Randolph sing Sullivan's praises ("Hymn For a Sunday Evening- Ed Sullivan"). Hugo sees Kim is attracted to Conrad and becomes very jealous. Albert's overbearing, interfering mother Mae comes to break up her son's relationship with Rosie. She introduces Albert to Gloria Rasputin, a curvy blonde she met on the bus who could replace Rose as his secretary.
Rose, jealous and angry, dreams of violent ways to murder Albert ("One Hundred Ways Ballet"). Rose and Hugo plot to ruin the broadcast. Conrad sings on The Ed Sullivan Show ("One Last Kiss") and as he leans in to kiss Kim, Hugo runs onstage and punches him in the face. On live television, Conrad collapses, Rose breaks up with Albert, and Albert, trying to cover for the mishaps of the evening, leads a chorus of ("Normal American Boy" (Reprise)).
Despite plans to refilm the broadcast, Rose and Kim resolve to leave Albert and Hugo, lamenting on how stupid they were to fall in love with them ("What Did I Ever See in Him"). Conrad decides he wants to go out and have a good time on his last night as a civilian and encourages the teens to party ("A Lot of Livin' to Do"). Conrad, Kim, and all the teenagers except Hugo head for the Ice House to party without adult supervision. Hugo goes to Maude's Roadside Retreat, hoping to get drunk, but proprietor Charles F. Maude can tell that he's under age and refuses to serve him.
When Mr. MacAfee finds out Kim has run away, he and Mrs. MacAfee lament how disobedient kids are today ("Kids"). Rose ends up at Maude's Roadside Retreat, but Albert calls her on the telephone and begs her to return to him ("Baby Talk to Me"). Rose, hoping to forget Albert, interrupts a Shriners meeting being held in Maude's private dining room. She flirts with all the Shriners, and they begin a wild dance. Hugo and Albert rescue Rose from the crazed Shriners, and Albert finally stands up to his mother, telling her to go home. Hugo tells the MacAfees and the other parents that the teenagers have gone to the Ice House, and they all declare that they don't know what's wrong with their kids ("Kids Reprise"). Randolph joins in, stating that his older sister and the other teens are "so ridiculous and so immature".
The adults and the police arrive at the Ice House and arrest Conrad, although he doesn't appear to have done anything illegal or immoral. Kim claims that she was intimidated by Conrad, and gladly returns to Hugo. After a reconciliation with Albert, Rose tells Albert's mother Mae that she will marry Albert despite Mae's racist objections, and to irritate her, declares she's Spanish ("Spanish Rose") with deliberate comic exaggeration. Albert bails Conrad out of jail and arranges for him to sneak out of town dressed as a middle-aged woman—presumably so he can report for Army induction as scheduled. Albert also gets his mother to leave Sweet Apple bound for home on the same train, getting Conrad and his mother out of his life for good. Albert tells Rosie that they're not going back to New York; they're going to Pumpkin Falls, Iowa. The small town is in need of an English teacher, and they prefer the applicant to be married. Albert professes that everything is rosy with Rosie ("Rosie") and they go off together happily.
(Note: Based on Original Broadway Production, 1960)
The 2009 revival placed "Kids" after "What Did I Ever See in Him?", and "A Lot of Livin to Do" followed "Kids". Although the reprise of "Kids" was included, it was not listed in the playbill. A finale was added, featuring the song "Bye Bye Birdie" (written expressly for the 1963 movie version of Bye Bye Birdie) sung by the entire cast
Bye Bye Birdie's instrumentation is very large. The instrumentation calls for piano, bass, guitar, two percussion players, four woodwind players, three trumpets, horn, two trombones, and strings. The bass part here calls for double bass while the guitar part calls for acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, and electric bass. The banjo is only used on the overture and the electric bass is only used for "The Telephone Hour" and the How To Kill a Man ballet. The first percussion player plays on mallet instruments while the second plays on drums. The first woodwind player doubles on piccolo, flute, clarinet, and alto sax; the second doubles on clarinet and alto sax; the third doubles on clarinet and tenor sax; the fourth doubles on clarinet, bass clarinet, and baritone sax. The second trombone part requires an F-attachment. Tams-Witmark, the company that holds the Bye Bye Birdie license, also has a second keyboard part to substitute the string section. The woodwind section in the original Broadway production is very different from the current licensed version. There were five woodwind players instead of four. The first doubled on piccolo, flute, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, and alto sax; the second doubled on piccolo, flute, E-flat clarinet, clarinet, bass clarinet, and alto sax; the third doubled on piccolo, flute, clarinet, and tenor and bass sax; the fourth doubled on oboe, English horn, clarinet, and tenor sax; the fifth doubled on piccolo, flute, clarinet, bassoon, and baritone sax.http://bretpimentel.com/woodwinds/doubling/shows/#s1002
In New York, the Broadway production opened on April 14, 1960, at the Martin Beck Theatre, transferring to the 54th Street Theatre and then the Shubert Theatre, closing on October 7, 1961, after 607 performances. The show was produced by Edward Padula and directed and choreographed by Gower Champion, with orchestrations by Robert Ginzler, scenic design by Robert Randolph, costumes by Miles White and lighting by Peggy Clark.
The original Broadway cast included Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde, Dick Gautier, Susan Watson, Kay Medford and Charles Nelson Reilly. Reilly understudied as Albert Peterson for Van Dyke, who periodically took time off (including a two-week hiatus to film the pilot episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show) and returned to the leading role. During pre-production, Chita Rivera took the role of Rosie after both Carol Haney and Eydie Gorme turned it down, and the character's last name was changed from "Grant" to "Alvarez". Replacements during the run included Gene Rayburn as Albert and Gretchen Wyler as Rosie.
In London, the musical opened in the West End at Her Majesty's Theatre in June 1961, with Peter Marshall as Albert, Rivera reprising her role as Rosie, Angela Baddeley as Mae and Marty Wilde as Conrad Birdie. That production ran for 268 performances.
An abridged version of Bye Bye Birdie was presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, October 2–5, 2008, as part of its Broadway: Three Generations production. Laura Osnes played Kim and Leslie Kritzer played Rosie.
The Roundabout Theatre Company's limited-run Broadway revival began previews at Henry Miller's Theatre on September 10, 2009, opened to mostly negative reviews on October 15, 2009 and was scheduled to close January 10, 2010 before it was extended until April 25, 2010. Due to poor advance sales after the expiration of lead actors John Stamos and Gina Gershon's contracts, the closing date was moved up to January 24, 2010. Robert Longbottom was the director-choreographer, with John Stamos and Gina Gershon starring as Albert Peterson and Rosie Alvarez, Bill Irwin as Harry MacAfee, Jayne Houdyshell as Mrs. Mae Peterson, Nolan Gerard Funk as Conrad, Riley Costello as Herman Henkel, Allie Trimm as Kim MacAfee and Matt Doyle as Hugo Peabody. Although Longbottom spoke extensively about how the show was being revised and refined for the revival, there were no interpolations from the film or TV adaptations of the show barring the title tune written for the film, which was used as a finale.
Bye Bye Birdie was first adapted for film in 1963. It starred Dick Van Dyke reprising his stage role as a slightly rewritten Albert Peterson, Maureen Stapleton as Mama Mae Peterson, Janet Leigh as Rosie, Paul Lynde reprising his stage role as Mr. MacAfee, Bobby Rydell as Hugo Peabody, and Ann-Margret as Kim MacAfee. Jesse Pearson played Conrad Birdie. Ed Sullivan makes a guest appearance as himself. The film is credited with making Ann-Margret a superstar during the mid-1960s, leading to her appearing with the real Elvis Presley in Viva Las Vegas (1964). The film ranked number 38 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.
Several significant changes were made in the plot and character relationships in the film version. Albert is not Birdie's agent but a talented research chemist who is struggling as a songwriter only to please his overbearing mother. He contributed to Birdie's initial success, and therefore Birdie "owes" him a favor. The film version also includes an additional character, a suave English teacher who flirts with Rosie. She plays up to him in several scenes after Albert has made her angry by caving in to his mother.
The positioning and context of several songs were changed as well. "An English Teacher," "Normal American Boy," "One Hundred Ways," "What Did I Ever See In Him?," "Baby Talk To Me" and "Spanish Rose" were omitted from the film. "Kids" was performed in the MacAfee kitchen by Mr. MacAfee, Mama Mae Peterson, Albert and Randolph. "Put On A Happy Face" is performed by Albert and Rosie in the MacAfees' back yard; "A Lot of Livin' To Do" was performed by Conrad, Kim and Hugo at a teen dance; and "Rosie" is sung at the end of show by Albert, Rosie, Hugo and Kim. Kim also opens and closes the film version singing the title song, "Bye Bye, Birdie", a song written for the film.
The film version ends on a brighter and lighter note than the stage musical. When Hugo punches Conrad, knocking him out with a single punch "live" on The Ed Sullivan Show, he wins Kim's heart, and the young couple is reunited. Albert's mother shows up after the broadcast with Charles F. Maude (the bartender), informs Albert and Rosie that she has married him, and gives Albert and Rosie her blessing for their long-postponed wedding.
Van Dyke was unhappy with the adaptation because the focus was shifted to Ann-Margret's character. He has stated that Birdie was "a romp'" on Broadway, but they "Hollywood-ized" the movie. "They made it a vehicle for Ann-Margret." Paul Lynde, who played Mr. MacAfee on stage and in the film, later quipped "They should have retitled it 'Hello, Ann-Margret!' They cut several of my and the other actors' best scenes and shot new ones for her so she could do her teenage-sex-bombshell act."  Susan Watson, who created the role of Kim in the stage version, later said, "Anyone who likes the film didn't see the show."
A TV-movie adaptation was made in 1995. It starred Jason Alexander in the role of Albert and Vanessa L. Williams as Rosie. Tyne Daly played Albert's mother Mae Peterson. Marc Kudisch, who played Conrad Birdie on tour opposite Tommy Tune, reprised the role. Pop music singer Chynna Phillips played Kim MacAfee, Broadway veteran Sally Mayes played her mother, and George Wendt played her father Harry. While this version remained mostly faithful to the original musical, several songs were added and re-arranged, and dialogue was slightly rewritten to smoothly facilitate the musical changes. The title song "Bye Bye Birdie", written for the 1963 film and sung by Ann-Margret, is rearranged and rewritten as a quintet for a group of Sweet Apple girls at the soda shop. The verse of "One Boy" that Rosie sings was replaced with "Let's Settle Down". The "How To Kill a Man" ballet was cut. The song "Baby Talk to Me" returns to the show. "Spanish Rose" is moved to earlier in the story. Dialogue where Albert's mother Mae laments her fate was re-written into a song entitled "A Mother Doesn't Matter Anymore," and in "A Giant Step", Albert tells Rosie how he has finally broken free of his overbearing mother.
The original production of Bye Bye Birdie opened to mostly positive reviews, with several critics marveling at the unexpected success of a musical crafted by an inexperienced production team. John Champman of the New York Daily News called it "the funniest, most captivating, and most expert musical comedy one could hope to see ... the show is pure, plain musical comedy, with jokes, dancing, oddball costumes ... exceptionally catching orchestrations ... and a completely enthusiastic cast." He noted that, "one of the best things about it is that practically nobody is connected to it. Who ever heard of Edward Padula ... Charles Strouse and Lee Adams ... Gower Champion?" Frank Aston of the New York World-Telegram & Sun declared Bye Bye Birdie "the peak of the season" and especially liked Chita Rivera as Rosie: "Chita Rivera ... is triumphant as dancer, comic, and warbler." In the New York Daily Mirror, Robert Coleman wrote that "Edward Padula put over a sleeper in the Broadway sweepstakes, and it's going to pay off in big figures ... Chita Rivera explodes like a bomb over West 45th Street. Michael Stewart has penned a sassy and fresh book, while Lee Adams and Charles Strouse have matched it with tongue-in-cheek lyrics and music."
New York Herald Tribune critic Walter Kerr praised Gower Champion's direction but criticized the libretto and score, stating that "Mr. Champion has been very much responsible for the gayety (sic), the winsomeness, and the exuberant zing of the occasion ... he has not always been given the very best to work with ... every once in a while, Michael Stewart's book starts to break down and cry ... Lee Adams's lyrics lean rather heavily on the new "talk-out-the-plot" technique, and Charles Strouse's tunes, though jaunty, are whisper-thin." Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times conceded that "the audience was beside itself with pleasure" but dryly stated that "this department was able to contain itself. Bye Bye Birdie is neither fish, fowl, nor good musical comedy. It needs work."
|1961||Tony Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Dick Van Dyke||Won|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Chita Rivera||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Gower Champion||Won|
|Best Conductor and Musical Director||Elliot Lawrence||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design||Robert Randolph||Nominated|
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