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Phoenix Festival Theater Bye Bye Birdie

By • Sep 13th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Bye Bye Birdie
Phoenix Festival Theater
Chesapeake Theatre-Harford Community College, Bel Air, MD
Through September 18th
2:10 with one intermission
$18/$9 Youth/$9 Senior (Matinees)
Reviewed September 10th, 2011

“For it’s a fine, upstanding, patriotic, healthy, normal American” musical! Yes, they still do exist! And with Phoenix Festival’s Production of Bye Bye Birdie the proof is in the pudding. The 1960 musical hit originally titled Let’s Go Steady!, written by Michael Stewart, Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, is a treat for the entire family.

This is a solid production, executed with strong vision, conviction, and several outstanding performances. Dickie Mahoney definitely headlines the cast as Albert Peterson. Mahoney delivers a flawless, tour de force performance with impeccable timing, passion and amazing understanding of the role. And, if that wasn’t enough, just wait till you watch him dance in “Put on a Happy Face” and hear him sing “Talk to Me.” Natalie Knox has the privilege to play one of the most iconic roles in musical theatre (Rose Alvarez) which she does well. Vocally, she is stunning. The only downfall of her performance was that she did not reciprocate the same chemistry and emotion that was effortlessly delivered by Mahoney.

Elise Starkey as (Kim MacAfee) is an extremely skilled young actresses; her Kim is touching, youthful, and at times hysterical. Starkey kept her brilliantly developed character at all times seamlessly. Unfortunately, vocally, Starkey struggled on most numbers. Her young voice was not quite up to par with the demanding range of the score.

Kim Brueggemann is an absolute treat as Doris MacAfee: full of life, energy, amazing facial expressions, and man WHAT A VOICE! Steve Flickinger’s Harry MacAfee is a hoot. Though some rough spots here and there, his rendition of “Kids” is one of the major highlights of the show.

Chris Volker as Conrad Birdie is extremely physically convincing as a heart-throb rock-and-roll idol and puts great effort into the role. Although he is a bit stiff and mechanical on some of the dance numbers, the female portion of the audience did not seem to mind at all. Eleni Densmore as Mae Peterson also was an audience favorite; however, her paraphrasing of the written script resulted in the destruction of the comedic timing and the wit of the dialogue.

Tyler Fritz as Hugo Peabody is absolutely hysterical. Bravo young man! And last, but definitely not least, Bambi Johnson as Gloria Rasputin is soooooooooooo ridiculously over the top that it actually works brilliantly.

The adult ensemble is strong and effective, especially vocally. The teen ensemble knocks it out of the park; most of them are triple threats, especially Shane Lowry – it was nearly impossible to take your eyes of him when he was on stage.

The technical side the production does well. William Price designed a simple yet beautiful and effective set, which functions extremely well under the technical direction of Jeffrey Kanyuck. Costume designer Laura Lang stays true to the period and the vision of the Director. Choreographer Larry Hensley creates beautiful movements and fun and energetic dance numbers. Musical Director Terri Mathews does very well accommodating the actors’ wide range of ability. Director Roger Schulman should be commended on this production and staying true to the heart and soul of the show, its meanings and morals, and making several choices and executions and standing behind them!

Cast

  • Albert Peterson: Dickie Mahoney
  • Rose Alvarez: Natalie Knox
  • Harvey Jhonson: Christian Washburn
  • Ursula Merkle: Ceara Scanlan
  • Kim MacAfee_Elise Starkey
  • Doris MacAfee: Kim Brueggemann
  • Harry MacAfee: Steve Flickinger
  • Randolph MacAfee: (9/9, 9/10 matinee, 9/17 evening, 9/18) Nate Izzo
  • Randolph MacAfee: (9/10 evening, 9/11, 9/17 matinee) Matthew Hauf
  • Put on A Happy Face Dancers: Mackenzie Brockmeyer, Kyleigh Daikker, Karly Horn, Leslie Perry
  • Mae Peterson: Eleni Densmore
  • Reporters: Lans Alexis, Eyvo
  • Conrad Birdie: Chris Volker
  • Hugo Peabody: Tyler Fritz
  • Kim’s Friends: Sierra Ficca, Karly Horn, Kamberlynne Washburn
  • Mrs. Merkle: Catherine Washburn
  • Mayor: Michael Maistros
  • Mayors Wife: Debbie Martin
  • Gloria Rasputin: Bambi Johnson
  • Maude: Eyvo
  • Teen Ensemble: Erin Bourn, Mackenzie Brockmeyer, Campbell Kistner, Kyleigh Daikker, Sierra Ficca, Brady Fritz, Karly Horn, Olivia Lang, Yasha Langer, Shane Lowry, Leslie Perry, Martha Schick, Christian Washburn, Kamberlyne Washburn
  • Adult Ensemble: Lans Alexis, Jessica Brockmeyer, Paula Diggs Smith, Eyvo, Kimberly Hart, Michelle Hosier, Bambi Jhonson, Eyvo, Michael Maistros, Debbie Martin, Catherine Washburn

Production Staff

  • Director: Roger Schulman
  • Music Director: Terri Mathews
  • Choreographer: Larry Hensley
  • Technical Director: Jeffrey Kanyuck
  • Stage Manager: Emily Knowles
  • Set Designer: William Price
  • Lighting Designer: Todd Mion
  • Sound Designer: SuchSound
  • Sound Board Operator: Terry Edwards
  • Costume Designer: Laura Lang
  • Props Master: Jessica Brockmeyer
  • Technical Crew: Charis Bartenslager, Kristen Hessenauer, Patrick Trzeciak, Trevor Winter

Orchestra

  • Reed 1: Sherri Domenico
  • Reed 2: Crystal Rufenacht
  • Trumpet: Tony Domenico
  • Trombone: Lewis Blandon
  • Bass/Guitar: E.J. Reilly
  • Percussion: Mark Leppo
  • Keyboard: Jeffrey Winfield
  • Keyboard: Terri Mathews

Disclaimer: Phoenix Festival Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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worked for twenty years as a professional actor and director, as well as worked a myriad of other theatrical production roles at various levels. In recent years, he served as Artistic Director/President of STROyKA Theatre in Washington, DC. Roman privately teaches acting, voice, and piano and serves as a consultant to various groups and schools. His primary role is stay-at-home dad and full-time college student. He also directs the Voices Unlimited Youth Choir at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Bel Air, MD.

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