A pop superstar, multitudes of screaming girls and headaches from parents and boyfriends across town—no, this isn't a Justin Bieber concert. It’s the premise of W.T. Woodson High School’s hilarious production of “Bye, Bye, Birdie!”
First performed in 1960, “Bye, Bye, Birdie” was written as a satire on American society in the 1950s, and its obsession with pop icons. After years of trying to find the perfect plot, the show finally came together, eventually winning the Tony Award for Best Musical. “Bye, Bye, Birdie” tells the story of Albert Peterson (played by Josh Reiter), an agent and lyricist for music sensation Conrad Birdie (Gilbert Louis Braun III). When Conrad receives a draft notice, Albert finds his career on the verge of collapse, until his secretary and girlfriend Rose Alvarez (Paula Lavalle) comes up with the plan to give one lucky fan, later determined to be 15-year-old Kim MacAfee (Ali Romig) from Sweet Apple, Ohio, the chance to kiss Birdie on the Ed Sullivan Show before he leaves for war. This ends up causing more distress than planned for everyone involved with the stunt, leading to romance, breakups, hilarious comedy and lending itself to a successful night for Woodson.
As Rose Alvarez, Paula Lavalle graced the stage with strong comedy and an enchanting voice. From start to finish, Lavalle fully embodied the role of Rose, projecting confidence and radiance every time she stepped on stage. Her vocal talents were undeniable, especially in difficult songs such as “Spanish Rose” and “An English Teacher.” Opposite her was Josh Reiter, who, as Albert Peterson, worked well with Lavalle to give off the essence of love and heartbreak, and taking the audience with them every step of the way through their wonderful story.
Perhaps the most exhilarating of performances came from Faith Johnson, who, as Mrs. Mae Peterson, brought down the house with her hilarious lines and incredible mannerisms. Never losing her touch, Johnson kept all eyes on her every time she adorned the stage, as the audience waited for what she would say next. Her “motherly” antics and old lady style only increased the mastery of her performance, leaving everyone truly thankful to have had the opportunity to witness her unforgettable talents.
An unusually strong ensemble was also present throughout the entirety of the night. With nearly 60 cast members, the ensemble could have proved troublesome, but instead was empowering. All involved kept the energy flow high throughout most of the play, always making clever choices and demanding attention whenever they strolled into the scene.
Behind the scenes, the lighting, headed by Killian Rodgers and Laura Muse, was perfect, always adding to the show and embracing the mood and style of each scene to create the perfect display of technical talent. The set was also utilized well, painted in 1950s-style colors and always being used by the large cast whenever possible to make the stage seem bigger than it really was, never making it seem crowded, a problem common with large casts.
Overall, Woodson’s production of “Bye, Bye, Birdie” was hilarious through and through. Despite a few instances of pitch problems and a lack of energy from some, the cast came together to produce a fantastic night of comedy. The lights and the set only added to the show, giving the audience something wonderful to look at from start to finish. Woodson High School deserved the standing ovation they received at the end, and they truly deserve commendation for their incredible rendition of a classic show.