The traditional spring musical may not be so traditional anymore. Because spring testing (SOL, AP, IB) has such a heavy influence on the school calendar now, more and more schools, including Robert E. Lee, are finding it difficult to produce a major musical in the spring. "With the proximity of spring break to the beginning of SOL testing, it just seemed logical to do something with a small cast in the spring slot. 'Bye, Bye, Birdie' is such a huge production involving so many students that the fall slot afforded the least amount of conflicts," said Trena Weiss-Null, Lee theater director.
"'Bye, Bye, Birdie,' is a great show for a high school," said Weiss-Null. "Besides, I needed a show that would feature a lot of girls since we did 'Joseph' last year. It's only fair that all the kids get an equal shot at interesting roles."
Forty-two students and a few "guest stars" are slated to appear in "Birdie." The show will be directed by the same creative team as last year's "Joseph" with the exception of vocal direction and lights which will be provided by Jeanne Crowley and Chris Skiba, respectively. Returning are director Weiss-Null, conductor Brendan Slocumb, and choreographer Johana Rosa. Daniel Mustone heads the cast as Albert Peterson, president of Almaelou Music and Birdie's (Matt Lent) manager. When the business is threatened as Birdie gets drafted, Albert's assistant Rosie (Gwynn Miller) saves the day with her idea of Birdie's "Last Kiss" on the Ed Sullivan show. The kiss' recipient, Kim MacAffe of Sweet Apple, Ohio, is host to Birdie and his entourage resulting in some interesting moments with her parents (Caitlin Miller and Matt Tritle) and especially her boyfriend Hugo (Michael Southee). David Watkins designed the set, Katie Little will handle sound design, Liz Hebert is doing costumes, Michael Collins is in charge of props and Corinn Brush is makeup designer.
"We have some interesting things planned for this show," said Beckah Smith, stage manager, "and we have a really experienced technical staff." Smith, a senior, has worked on every show at Lee since her first semester her freshman year. She has parlayed her experience into real employment, too. Besides being a licensed student technician at Lee, she has spent the last two summers teching at the Washington Summer Opera in D.C. "Several of us work in theater-related jobs outside of school. Our department really does prepare us for the real world."