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When Conrad Birdie, America's rock n' roll idol of 1960, gets drafted into the army, his agent, Albert Peterson, is at the end of his rope. Albert's secretary and long suffering girlfriend, Rose Alvarez, develops a scheme to send Conrad off with a hit song, "One Last Kiss," which he will bestow on his #1 fan, Kim MacAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio. Kim and her friends love the idea, but Hugo, Kim's new "steady," is less than thrilled. MacAfee, Kim's father is totally frustrated with kids today until he learns he will be appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show with Kim and Conrad. A smooth show looks likely until Rosie, fed up with Albert and show business in general, sabotages the plan with help from Hugo, and takes a walk off the proverbial deep end. Mae Peterson, Albert's overbearing mother, couldn't be more happy to see the "Spanish tamale" go south, but Albert is desperate to win her back. The story crescendos to uproarious chaos as Hugo wallows over Kim, Mae attempts to collar Albert, Albert begs Rosie's forgiveness, Conrad prowls for a last fling, and Mr.. and Mrs. MacAfee insure Kim is not that fling. All everyone wants is an ending that is just peachy ... er, rosie.
Theatre and Performance Studies
La Salle University, "Bye Bye Birdie" (1999). The Masque Programs. 17.
"Bye Bye Birdie," with a book by Michael Stewart, music by Charles Strouse, and lyrics by Lee Adams, had its world premier in Philadelphia in the late winter of 1960. The cast included Dick Van Dyke as Al Peterson, Chita Rivera as Rose, Kay Medford as Mae, and Paul Lynde as Mr. MacAfee. The Philadelphia critics gave the show rave notices and, after a successful run here, it moved on to Broadway where it opened on April 14. Again the critics cheered:
"Enormously appealing! Frisky new musical. .. delectable to watch ... A winning show." Walter Kerr, Herald Tribune
"Bright and delightful ... the music and lyrics have freshness and imagination ... richly entertaining ... a fresh and humorous musical." Richard Watts, Post
Gower Champion, who directed and choreographed "Bye Bye Birdie," received a Tony award for his efforts. "Bye Bye Birdie," won the 1961 Tony for Best Musical. The show proved to be a success at the box-office as well as in the press. It ran for six hundred and seven performances, finally closing on October 7, 1961.
In London, the show proved its appeal was not confined to this side of the Atlantic. This spoof at American rock 'n roll and its most famous purveyor found British audiences as willing to be entertained by it as American audiences. It was named the best musical of the l 962 London season.
Between May 5th and 12th, 1963 the Masque of La Salle College presented "Bye Bye Birdie," directed by Dan Rodden. With Pat Cronin as Albert Peterson, Laurie Wagman as Rose, and Nicky DeMatteo as Conrad Birdie, the show was Dan Rodden's 25th production with the Masque. Sidney MacLeod (now a professor in the Communication Department) served as Technical Director for the show, while the world renowned choreographer Jean Williams put "the Masque choruses through their paces."