Rehearsals are currently underway for the Hollister High School Theatre Department’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie.”
The theatre department will host performances of its spring musical on Friday, April 9, Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11. “Bye Bye Birdie” is a stage musical written by Michael Steward, lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse.
“‘Bye Bye Birdie’ is a show set in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s based on Elvis Presley and his entrance into the military,” said Hollister High School Theatre Department Director Kyle Bradley. “It just follows a small town in Ohio and their reaction to this big star named Conrad Birdie going into the military and all of the events that follow that.”
The original 1960 Broadway production resulted in both a 1963 musical film — which stared Dick Van Dyke in his feature film debut — and a 1995 musical television movie.
When deciding what production the Hollister Theatre Department should do next, Bradley shared what led him to select “Bye Bye Birdie.”
“It’s been around for a long time. I think a lot of high schools have taken it on. I just thought it would be a great opportunity for our students to be able to grow some appreciation for this kind of golden age musical theatre and to get some experience with characters they can relate to,” said Bradley. “A lot of characters in the show are teenagers. So I think a lot of our students have enjoyed getting to play a teenager on stage instead of being a teenager and playing an adult, which can be difficult sometimes. So it’s been really fun to watch them play teens and just have a good time with an old fashioned fun show.”
Rehearsals for the musical began back in January. Despite missing a couple weeks of rehearsals due to the snow and ice back in February, Bradley said the students are back on schedule to open in April. The department continues to practice the district’s COVID safety precautions, which over time has become a little easier, according to Bradley.
“We’ve gotten more used to the requirements and how to best utilize our time to remain safe. We’ve been doing some music rehearsals obviously, so we try to spread out as much as possible just in the auditorium to practice our music,” Bradley said. “Then when we’re doing choreography or blocking we make sure to wear our masks and follow those rules and guidelines that the school has set in place. So I think, having done it for a while now, we’ve become used to it and we’re navigating it well at this point I think.”
As the musical has had numerous stage versions, along with the two movies, Bradley said one of the challenges facing the department with this production were creating the amount of locations audiences are used to seeing throughout the show.
“A lot of times it cuts from one scene to the next quite quickly, so there’s several different settings throughout the show. So we are achieving that by using a lot of backdrops that we will be flying in for the production for different scenes. I’m bringing on different things to represent those locations as well, but that’s one thing that will help us achieve all these different locations,” said Bradley. “The students are looking forward to that. They always think that’s fun to deal with a rented backdrop like that. It brings a lot of production value to the show. It’s a good opportunity for them to experience something that a lot of professional theaters do with backdrops, so we enjoy that a lot.”
Another challenge of this particular production was casting the student who would take on the lead role of Conrad Birdie, who has become one of the most well known musical characters, according to Bradley.
“Obviously in music theatre, especially at the high school level, it’s sometimes a challenge to get gentlemen involved in the show, but we have a great group of guys that are excited about theatre and want to be involved,” said Bradley. “So they were all excited for this opportunity to audition for Conrad Birdie, especially knowing that it’s based on Elvis and all the iconic things Elvis stands for, his movement and how all the ladies worship him. So I think they were excited about that aspect of it.”
While it was challenging, Bradley added that it was still a really fun role to cast.
“We have a young man named Jaxon Thomas that will be playing Conrad Birdie. He’s a really good kid and he works really hard,” said Bradley. “He’s really involved in a lot of things in school, so he’s pretty comfortable and confident in himself, so I think he brings that a lot to the character. It’s really fun to watch him on stage.”
Tickets for the show are $5 for students and $8 for adults and will be available for purchase at the door. Show times will be at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 9 and 10 and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 10 and 11.
Due to COVID, as well as the growing number of students who wanted to participate in the show, Bradley explained he choose to have a full understudy cast ready to go at a moments notice. To give the understudy cast the opportunity to also showcase their hard work and devotion to the production, the 2 p.m. show on Saturday will feature the understudy cast rather than the main cast.
Alongside Jaxon Thomas as Conrad Birdie, the main cast will feature the young talents of Emily Hanner as Rosie Alvarez, Nathan Reinke as Albert Peterson, Lucy Blackwood as Kim Macafee, Lacey Kellett as Mrs. Mae Peterson, Josie Smith as Mrs. Macafee, George Haltom as Mr. Macafee, Caleb Spurling as Randolph Macafee, Lucas Bare as Hugo Peabody, Alexis FisCher as Ursula Merkle, Trenton Bryant as Mayor Merkle, Juanita Wilson as Mrs. Merkle, Emma Spurling as Gloria Rasputin, Ruben Dutton as Harvey Johnson, Macy Everett as Alice, Annison Echols as Margie, Lindsey Jackson as Deborah Sue/Nancy and Lynessa Barney as Helen.
Alongside Jaxon Thomas as Conrad Birdie, the understudy cast features the talents of Daniela Richardson as Rosie Alvarez, Ruben Dutton as Albert Peterson, Annette Gill as Kim Macafee, Josie Smith as Mrs. Mae Peterson, Macy Everett as Mrs. Macafee, Trenton Bryant as Mr. Macafee, Caleb Spurling as Randolph Macafee, Ben Stevens as Hugo Peabody, Lacey Kellett as Ursula Merkle, George Haltom as Mayor Merkle, Juanita Wilson as Mrs. Merkle, Lynessa Barney as Gloria Rasputin, Nathan Reinke as Harvey Johnson, Alexis FisCher as Alice, Annison Echols as Margie, Lindsey Jackson as Deborah Sue/Nancy and Emma Spurling as Helen.
Additionally, the musical will feature the talents of Christian Mayfield, Katherine Linn, Brenna Brown, Olivia Buttram and Kira Gallaher as members of the chorus.
For additional information on the production, tickets, show times and more visit hollister.k12.mo.us or the Hollister High School Theatre Department page on Facebook.