"Bye Bye Birdie," which opens Sept. 9 at Phoenix Festival Theater, is bursting with Harford County talent.
Roger Schulman directs the frothy Michael Stewart-Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical, which shows how 1960s bobby-soxers and their protective parents react when rock star Conrad Birdie shows up in their small town to promote his new song, "One Last Kiss." The kiss is to be delivered on "The Ed Sullivan Show" to the president of the Sweet Apple fan club, teenager Kim MacAfee. Since Conrad is being inducted into the Army, it may well be his last kiss before boot camp.
Tyler Fritz, 19, of Bel Air, who plays Kim's "steady," Hugo Peabody, had this to say about the show: "The show is for all ages. Everybody will enjoy it. If you come out to see it, you will have a good time."
The musical runs at the Chesapeake Center at Harford Community College at 410 Thomas Run Road in Bel Air, Sept. 9-18, with 8 p.m. shows Sept. 9, 10 and 17 (no show Sept. 16), and 3 p.m. matinees Sept. 10, 11, 17 and 18. Reserved seating, $9-$18, is available at 443-412-2211 or http://www.harford.edu/cultural. Parking is free.
Elise Starkey is excited about playing Kim MacAfee. In a recent Tidewater Players production of "Birdie," she played Kim's best friend, Ursula.
"Kim is only 15, but she wants nothing more than to be in her 20s," the Havre de Grace High School senior, said. "She wants to be grown up and ready to get the rest of her life started. She loves Hugo, but Conrad Birdie is her idol."
Steve Flickinger, of Forest Hill, plays Kim's father, Harry.
"Being the father of a teenage girl in the show, she's growing up and doing different things, and I don't like any of it," he said. "The idea of a rock star coming to town to kiss my daughter is just appalling."
Flickinger, the real-life father of pre-teens, Sammi, 11, and Delany, 9, added: "This is giving me insight into what's coming."
Kim Brueggemann, the director of the new Academy of Performing Arts & Dance on the John Carroll campus in Bel Air, plays Kim's mom, Doris. Audiences may remember her as the high-kicking murderess, Roxie Hart, in the Phoenix production of "Chicago."
"Doris is a 1960s mom, very much like June Cleaver," she said. "She wants everybody to be happy all the time."
Tyler Fritz, who plays Hugo, acted in the role of Harry MacAfee in John Carroll's production of "Birdie" when he was a student at the school.
"Hugo is jealous," he said. "He loves Kim and doesn't want her to fall under this rock star's spell."
Kim's little brother, Randolph, is shared by Matthew Hauf, a fifth-grader at Meadowvale, and Nate Izzo, a seventh-grader at Mountain Christian. In the show, Kim is constantly on the telephone with her girlfriends. Izzo said that his older sister, Julia, is much the same, except that she texts.
Chris Volker plays Conrad Birdie, who the audience comes to suspect may not be the patriotic, "healthy normal American boy," his promoters say he is.
Volker, a senior at the University of Delaware, played Bill Sykes and Kenicke in John Carroll's productions of "Oliver" and "Grease," respectively. The Bel Air native is president of the Harrington Theatre Arts Company at the University of Delaware. Resplendent in gold lame and pomaded hair, his Conrad is modeled onElvis Presley.
Besides the teenage storyline, which includes songs like "A Lot of Livin' To Do" and "Kids," the audience is treated to the on-again, off-again relationship between promoter Albert Peterson (Dickie Mahoney) and his secretary, Rose Alvarez (Natalie Knox), which is blighted by Albert's smother-mother, Mae (Eleni Densmore).
"Birdie" is not new to Mahoney.
"I played a teen in the show in high school," the Bel Air man said. "I choreographed it at Tidewater and directed it at St. Paul's in Aberdeen, but I never had the honor of doing this role. He's in a love triangle between his mother and the woman he loves. He really doesn't have a backbone, but does develop it as the show goes on."
Natalie Knox, whose sister, Stephanie, is married to Mahoney, plays Rose Alvarez.
"She's in love with Albert and wants to get married," she said. "It's a role I have always wanted to play. She's got some great songs."
Indeed, both Mahoney and Knox have great songs. He sings "Put on a Happy Face," she sings "Spanish Rose," and they join hands to sing the happy ending duet, "Rosie."
Eleni Densmore, of Bel Air, plays Albert's mother, Mae.
"I am the overbearing mother who loves her son dearly and doesn't ever want to see him get married — and especially not to Mexicali Rose!"
In an effort to replace Rose, Mae brings in Gloria Rasputin played by Bambi Johnson.
"Gloria comes on to flirt with Albert because she wants him to help her get into show business," she said. "The best part is that Gloria is supposed to be an awful dancer. I'm a choreographer, and people in the audience who know me will crack up."
The cast also includes Catherine, Christian and Kimberlynne Washburn, Ceara Scanlan, Chelsea Baumgardner, Jessica and Mackenzie Brockmeyer, Kyleigh Daikker, Katie Manning, Lans Alexis, Eyvo, Sierra Ficca, Karly Horn, Michael Maistros, Debbie Martin, Erin Bourn, William Campbell-Kistner, Brady Fritz, Yasha Langer, Shane Lowry, Leslie Perry, Martha Schick, Paula Diggs Smith, Kimberly Hart and Michelle Hosier.
The production staff includes 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 and props mistress Jessica Brockmeyer.
Members of the orchestra include Sherri and Tony Domenico, Crystal Rufenacht, Lewis Blandon, E.J. Reilly, Mark Leppo and Jeffrey Winfield.