Conrad Birdie is a popular guy in Sweet Apple, Ohio.
At least with the teenage girls, who are over the moon that Birdie is coming to town to give a lucky girl one last kiss before he goes into the Army.
Any similarity to Elvis Presley and his Army stint in 1957 is fully intentional.
“Bye Bye Birdie,” the popular musical about teenage hysteria, parents, friendship and love opens at Lancaster Bible College on Friday .
“I like to do a warmer musical comedy in January,” says David Felty, program director of musical theater at the college. “There’s no dark side in this one.”
“Bye Bye Birdie” ran on Broadway from 1960 to 1962, and a popular film was made from the show in 1963.
Birdie’s agent, Albert, is broke, and Birdie going into the Army is bad news for him.
Music is the family business, but Albert is actually a biochemist.
His secretary, Rosie, is in love with him, but Albert’s mother, Mae, doesn’t think Rosie is good enough for Albert, and Albert is a mama’s boy, far too timid to stand up to his mother.
Rosie comes up with an idea to send off Conrad in a splashy way and get another hit from him.
He will sing his new song, “One Last Kiss,” on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and go to Sweet Apple and give a lucky teenager one last kiss before he goes in the Army.
The lucky girl is Kim MacAvee, and her life is about to turn upside down.
And the sleepy little town of Sweet Apple is not prepared for all the frantic mayhem ahead.
When parents hear that Conrad is coming to town, with those swiveling hips, they don’t want to allow it.
Conrad, much like Elvis, is not a bad guy.
Sophomore Brayden Krikke, who is playing Conrad, has flushed out his character.
“I’m giving Conrad a taste of Elvis, but I’ve got my own take on Conrad,” he says. “He’s got a big ego and everything he does, he does in the extreme,” Krikke says. “He feeds off the attention.”
“The show is a lighthearted look at coming of age,” says director Heather Grayberg, who teaches at the college.
But there was nothing lighthearted about the rehearsal process. Intense is more like it.
The show was cast before Christmas break, and everyone was expected to know their lines when they got back to school on Jan. 2. They had two weeks of rehearsal before opening night..
“They are living theater boot camp,” Grayberg says. “They’ve been doing 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. days.”
But as Grayberg sees it, the time frame reflects the real world the students will experience, where shows often are put together in two or three weeks.
“And the students have been very helpful to each other,” she says. “As a unit, everyone gets better. Everyone sharpens each other.”¶