You’ll Love THIS Conrad: The Gem Theatre’s “Bye-Bye Birdie” Will Have You Saying ‘Hello’ To Your Happy Face!

“One More Productions” Presents “Bye, Bye Birdie” June 18—July 10, 2016 At “The Gem Theatre” In Garden Grove California (www.OneMoreProductions.com)

“One More Productions” Presents “Bye, Bye Birdie” June 18—July 10, 2016 At “The Gem Theatre” In Garden Grove California (www.OneMoreProductions.com)

Forget ‘June Gloom’—gray skies are really gonna clear up and happy faces are being put on in and around Garden Grove California, where “One More Productions”—the resident theater company at the city’s historic “Gem Theatre” are chasing the clouds away with their summer musical offering, “Bye-Bye Birdie”! Directed by One More Productions’ Co-Founder, Damien Lorton, and featuring a book by Broadway’s master librettist, Michael Stewart, (renowned for such other memorable musical fare as “Hello Dolly”, “George M”, “Barnum” and “Mack And Mabel”,) music is by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, whose captivating score contains numerous acclaimed standards like “Kids”, “A Lot Of Livin’ To Do”, “The Telephone Hour”, “Rosie” and “Put On A Happy Face”. In fact, the show is considered by many to be the very first “Rock And Roll” musical ever written. Now “One More Productions” has re-imagined and re-invigorated this ground-breaking Broadway hit and in the process, has generated loads of sure-fire fun for the whole family!
“Did they really get pinned? Did she kiss him and cry? Did he pin the pin on? Or was he too shy?” Kieara Williams as “Usula Merkle” spreads a tantalizing bit of news about BFF “Kim MacAfee” to all their pals during “The Telephone Hour” in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

“Did they really get pinned? Did she kiss him and cry? Did he pin the pin on? Or was he too shy?” Kieara Williams as “Usula Merkle” spreads a tantalizing bit of news about BFF “Kim MacAfee” to all their pals during “The Telephone Hour” in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

Taking on one of the largest casts “One More Productions” has boasted in recent memory, on opening night, Director Lorton reminded the audience that this was one of the first productions his then-fledgling company staged, so it has always held a special place for him. Commendably, this very evident in what he’s presented here. Lorton’s pace is fairly rapid and he once again makes imaginative use of “The Gem’s” intimate setting which makes the production numbers seem that much more rich and lavish. In addition, he throws in plenty of awesome surprises throughout–repositioning a number here, adding an unexpected reprise there, all to sensational effect. What’s more, there’s also a fortifying air of realism and credibility permeating through all the on-stage exploits making the net return a lively new take on an old favorite that’s most emphatically NOT your same old ‘same old’! Co-Choreographed by Lorton and Shauna Bradford, the pair have cleverly inundated the proceedings with an abundance of dazzling moves and stylish stepping–often in the simplest or most unpredictable places, performed to their exhilarating fullest by the youthful, energetic and superbly talented cast. Even with the deletion of the (arguably) superfluous “Shriner’s Ballet” it’s a safe bet to even say that this is one of the most dance-filled shows “The Gem” stage has enjoyed in quite a while! Set Designer Wally Huntoon’s sprawling glitter-tinged multi-leveled set renders us view as seen through the lens of a giant vintage jukebox, while Costume Designer Larry Watt’s period costumes are bright, colorful and authentically reminiscent of the decade of Ike, sock-hops, tail-fins on cars and Friday night Canasta. Through them one gets the impression that Watts may even be making a shrewd statement about adolescent exclusivity and inclusion; for instance, when one girl is wearing a plaid skirt, they’re ALL wearing plaid skirts, or whenever one is wearing pastel pedal-pushers, they’re ALL wearing them.

“One last kiss, oh give me one last kiss--It never felt like this…” Zackary Martinez as “Conrad Birdie” prepares to kiss Megan Oviatt as his as his fervent teenaged fan “Kim MacAfee” on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

“One last kiss, oh give me one last kiss–It never felt like this…” Zackary Martinez as “Conrad Birdie” prepares to kiss Megan Oviatt  as his fervent teenaged fan “Kim MacAfee” on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

Inspired by real-life events when Rock Legend Elvis Presley was inducted into the U.S. Armed Forces at the peak of his early super-stardom,  and all the adolescent hysteria that surrounded it, “Bye-Bye Birdie” returns to that fateful year of  1958 when news breaks that rock-and-roll idol, “Conrad Birdie” has just been drafted into the U.S. Army. Dispensing with the traditional overture, the action commences immediately with “The Telephone Hour” laying the foundations for the key relationships in the show—that of young Kim MacAfee and her teenage beau, Hugo Peabody as their friends and classmates are set all abuzz with the news that she’s now wearing his “pin” and that the two are ‘going steady’! Then it’s on to the Big Apple where Birdie’s down and out songwriter and agent, “Albert Peterson’, and Albert’s girlfriend and devoted secretary “Rosie Alvarez”, hatch a plan for a farewell performance to take place on none other than the most popular variety program on TV, “The Ed Sullivan Show”!

“Now listen here! This gossip must stop! He goes to church each Sunday and he doesn't touch a drop! He's as decent as a minister! He's as sober as a judge!” Chris Peduzzi ( R ) as “Albert” and Adriana Sanchez (L) as “Rose” try to convince the press that Zackary Martinez as “Conrad” ( C ) is a “Healthy Norman American Boy” with the company of One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

“Now listen here! This gossip must stop! He goes to church each Sunday and he doesn’t touch a drop! He’s as decent as a minister! He’s as sober as a judge!” Chris Peduzzi ( R ) as “Albert” and Adriana Sanchez (L) as “Rose” try to convince the press that Zackary Martinez as “Conrad” ( C ) is a “Healthy Norman American Boy” with the company of One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

Hoping that Conrad can record one last hit and save his fledgling company “Al-Mae-Lou Records” (Al for ‘Albert”, “Mae” for his mother—the company’s chief investor, and “Lou”, who we learn, is in deference to Mae’s dearly departed dog,) Albert writes a guaranteed hit titled “One Last Kiss” for the show. To cap off the performance, Birdie will actually bestow ‘one-last-kiss’ on national television to one very special teenage fan named “Kim MacAfee”–an avid member of “The Conrad Birdie Fan Club” from the quintessential small, middle American town, “Sweet Apple”, Ohio.  Initially, the scheme seems to (mostly) go according to plan, but no one has counted on the jealous wrath of Kim’s boyfriend, “Hugo”, her star struck family (including her overbearing hot-head of a father,) Albert’s own domineering and manipulative mother who ‘just happens’ to show up in town, or the outrageous adoration that borders on zealotry from Birdie’s many teenage admirers!

“With bunions on my feet, I trudged through snow and sleet, To bring your licorice from the corner store! I sold my Tiffany lamp so you could go to camp. Now a mother doesn't matter anymore!” Chris Peduzzi as “Albert” tries to calm Andrea Goldin as his temperamental mother, “Mae’” in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

“With bunions on my feet, I trudged through snow and sleet, To bring your licorice from the corner store! I sold my Tiffany lamp so you could go to camp. Now a mother doesn’t matter anymore!” Chris Peduzzi as “Albert” tries to calm Andrea Goldin as his temperamental mother, “Mae’” in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

Conveying a kind of easy-going, grown-up ‘boy-next-door’ amiability, Chris Peduzzi stars as would-be songwriter, “Albert Peterson”. Part Kevin Costner, part Jimmy Stewart he adeptly has us rooting for him right from the start, and although it doesn’t occur until almost half-way through the first act, his rendition of the classic “Put On A Happy Face” furnishes an exceptional introduction to his estimable vocal abilities. This in turn includes a smart and snappy tap interlude as Albert leads several of Birdie’s admirers in a dapper homage to the show’s original Director (and the driving force behind “Bye Bye Birdie”) Gower Champion. Later, he continues to charm with “Baby Talk To Me” which also demonstrates his dexterity with expressively interpreting a song . Right by his side practically every step, twist, twirl and pivot of the way, is Adriana Sanchez as his secretary/girlfriend, “Rose Alvarez”. Hers really is the character who moves the show forward as much of the plot—especially during the second act–unfolds as a kind of big theatrical “chase scene” and it’s “Rose” who keeps things rolling swiftly along;  hence with much of the action resting firmly her on her very capable shoulders, Ms. Sanchez succeeds and even prevails, brilliantly! Her execution of “An English Teacher” is lyrical and likeable early on, while after intermission, her rendition of the defiant “What Did I Ever See In Him?!” is a formidable way to launch Act Two. Then, her ultimate ‘declaration of independence”—“Spanish Rose” has thrillingly been re-worked from its initial role preceding a second act ballet, into a far more effective 11 O’ Clock number for Ms. Sanchez—and she genuinely shines in it’s new, more dynamic light! (“I’m just a Spanish tamale according to Mae,” she sings;” right off the boat from the tropics far, far, away…Which is kind of funny since where I come from is Allentown, P.A.!”) Together with Peduzzi, they cap off the goings-on pleasingly with the conciliatory (and delectably hummable) number “Rosie”–conferred as a convivial soft-shoe dance that blossoms into a gentle romantic waltz.

“Now my life is rosy, when I'm with my Rosie; with a girl like Rosie, how could I be blue?” Chris Peduzzi as “Albert” enjoys a romantic interlude with Adriana Sanchez as “Rose” in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

“Now my life is rosy, when I’m with my Rosie; with a girl like Rosie, how could I be blue?” Chris Peduzzi as “Albert” enjoys a romantic interlude with Adriana Sanchez as “Rose” in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

As the lucky lass at the center of all the excitement, Megan Oviatt also does a stand-out job as “Kim MacAfee”, striking all the right chords with her opening “How Lovely To Be A Woman”–which supplies an ample taste of both her vibrancy as an actress and the laudable way she can bring a touch of elegance to a catchy tune. Shortly after, she gives “One Boy” an equally engaging quality that quickly wins us (and Kim’s boyfriend Hugo) over. As her father, “Harry MacAfee”, John Gillies presents a refreshingly subdued alternative to the quick-tempered, killjoy made famous for the late comedian Paul Lynde. He does a fine job with “Kids”—making the copious throw-away lines encased in the lyrics come off as more straight-forward expressions of a father’s completely conceivable frustration as opposed to just some easy chances for a quick chuckle or two. (In yet another masterful musical-modification, “Kids” is later reprised—this time by all the parents of “Sweet Apple” with magnificent results.) As Harry’s ever-patient wife, “Doris MacAfee”, Julianne Sexton too brings a gratifying believability to her role. Indeed, the entire MacAfee clan (including young Gilbert Aguirre as son/younger brother “Randolph”) score with “A Hymn For A Sunday Evening”, as the family discovers that they too are going to be featured on none other than “The Ed Sullivan Show”. Beginning as a simple quartet, the song quickly burgeons into a full-blown extravaganza that would most definitely be worthy of the illustrious showman’s ground-breaking Sunday night variety hour! Moreover, offering a refreshing turn as the teen idol in question, Zackary Martinez is “Conrad Birdie”. More a 50’s era answer to Justin Bieber than your standard “Elvis” clone, his Birdie is an often brooding, marginally talented, hip-flask guzzling over-privileged kid, and yet he’s also surprisingly sympathetic. After all, it takes great talent to burlesque being non-talented and happily, it’s obvious that Martinez truly is skilled enough to pull-off this illusion. He hilariously seethes with insincerity with his preliminary salvo, “Honestly Sincerely” then does an outstanding job leading the group in “A Lot Of Livin’ To Do” injecting a nice low-key soulfulness to his interpretation which makes it unforgettable; by contrast Martinez then sublimely pulls all the stops out for the pivotal “One Last Kiss”.
“In everything I do my sincerity shows through--I looked you in the eye (don't even have to try,) It's automatic! I'm Sincere!” Even the Mayor (Carmen Tunis) is overwhelmed by Zackary Martinez as “Conrad Birdie” while Adrian Sanchez as “Rose”, Megan Oviatt as “Kim” and the entire company look on in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

“In everything I do my sincerity shows through–I looked you in the eye (don’t even have to try,) It’s automatic! I’m Sincere!” Even the Mayor (Carmen Tunis) is overwhelmed by Zackary Martinez as “Conrad Birdie” while Adrian Sanchez as “Rose”, Megan Oviatt as “Kim” and the entire company look on in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

Meanwhile, Andrea Goldin as Albert’s mink-coated “martyr in her own mind” mother, “Mrs. Mae Peterson” practically steals the show providing plenty of huge laughs and tossing off some outrageously hysterical throw-away lines! “You’re just like your father” she accuses Albert at one point, “—you’ll marry anything!” Her witty vaudeville-styled ‘dirge’, “A Mother Doesn’t Matter Anymore” exhibits her pristine comic timing, setting a new gold standard for humorous highlights in a show practically fueled by such monumental mirthful moments: “That’s it, I’m ready to go and I don’t want you to spend a cent,” she blusters; “Fancy funerals are for rich people….just wrap me in a flag and throw me in the river–on Mother’s Day!” Not to be over-looked either is Hayden Mangum as Kim’s brash boyfriend “Hugo Peabody”. He also evidences terrific appeal in a role that could easily appear unsympathetic; however, thanks to Mangum’s high-spirited brand of magnetism and (doubtlessly for more than a few, a slightly red-faced) relatability “Hugo” similarly has us square in his corner, while Carmen Tunis as The Mayor—in this production cast as a ‘just this side of seasoned’ “Cougar” who nonetheless, is still youthful enough to be intoxicated by young Conrad’s boyish charisma and unsullied (if somewhat sullen) sex-appeal. Kieara Williams is likewise tops (with a top-flight voice to match) as Kim’s best friend “Ursula Merkle”. The title number, (written expressly for the 1963 film and its star, Ann Margaret) makes for another welcome inclusion here, where it’s performed by the young ladies of Birdie’s “Sweet Apple” fan club. Delightfully headed by Ms. Williams, she reveals some pretty powerful notes of her own before leading the group in some five-star worthy harmonizing.

“Life's a ball--if only you know it! And it's all just waiting for you--you're alive, So come on and show it, we got a lot of livin’ to do!” Zack Martinez as “Conrad Birdie” joins Megan Oviatt as “Kim MacAfee” and friends for a night on the town in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

“Life’s a ball–if only you know it! And it’s all just waiting for you–you’re alive,
So come on and show it, we got a lot of livin’ to do!” Zackary Martinez as “Conrad Birdie” joins Megan Oviatt as “Kim MacAfee” and friends for a night on the town in One More Production’s “Bye Bye Birdie”

 As the boys remind Hugo at the ‘pin-nacle’ of his ‘real gone’ girl-crazy news, “If you gotta go, THAT’S the way to go!” So go man go! (–Straight to the “The Gem Theatre” that is, to catch this sparkling new production of an already entertaining show!) After “Previewing” on Thursday June 16th and Friday, June 17th, “Bye Bye Birdie” ‘officially’ opened on Saturday, June 18th where it will run through Sunday, July 10th 2016 at “The Gem Theatre”– located at 12852 Main Street in Garden Grove, CA.  Show-times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, with Sunday Matinees at 2:00 PM, with an added 2:00 PM Matinée on Saturday, July 2nd ; tickets may be obtained by calling “One More Productions” at (714) 741-9550 ext. 221, or logging onto http://www.onemoreproductions.com. Special discounts for seniors and children (12 years old and under) are available for all performances while “Student Rush” tickets are available for Thursday and Friday performances.
"Bye-bye Birdie! Its awful hard to bear; Bye-bye Birdie, guess we'll always care!" Megan Oviatt as "Kim" is shocked when Hayden Mangum as her 'steady' "Hugo" 'gives Zackary Martinez as "Conrad Birdie" his own unique style of greeting!

“Bye-bye Birdie! Its awful hard to bear; Bye-bye Birdie, guess we’ll always care!” Megan Oviatt as “Kim” is shocked when Hayden Mangum as her ‘steady’ “Hugo” ‘gives Zackary Martinez as “Conrad Birdie” his own unique style of greeting!

Production stills by Lisa Scarsi, courtesy of One More Productions. Special Thanks to Damien Lorton, Nicole Cassesso, Dan Pittman, Shoko Araki, Lisa Scarsi, Shauna Branford, and to the Cast & Crew of One More Production’s 2016 Production of “Bye Bye Birdie” for making this story possible.

2 thoughts on “You’ll Love THIS Conrad: The Gem Theatre’s “Bye-Bye Birdie” Will Have You Saying ‘Hello’ To Your Happy Face!

    • That’s a VERY valid point Mr. Hyrkas–thanks for pointing it out to me! Actually I thought ALL the technical elements in the show were estimable; if it helps any though, NEXT time I will certainly be aware to offer equal time and attention to the lighting and the other technical facets that I’ve been clumsily overlooking. For now though, Thanks again for en-LIGHT-ening me about this (I know–Sorry, but I couldn’t resist the pun 🙂

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