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Bye Bye Birdie, against all odds

Conrad+Birdie+is+surrounded+by+his+screaming+fans.+Photograph+by+Sara+Barron
Conrad Birdie is surrounded by his screaming fans. Photograph by Sara Barron

Conrad Birdie is surrounded by his screaming fans. Photograph by Sara Barron

Conrad Birdie is surrounded by his screaming fans. Photograph by Sara Barron

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The Charter Oak drama department has done it again. They recently finished off another wonderful production, receiving praise from many who vow to come watch more productions in the future. However, there is one glaring difference in this year’s production. While the department has done wonderfully praised productions before, those of the past had the luxury of a few months to prepare. This time, they only had three weeks.

Bye Bye Birdie is a stage musical based on a book by Michael Stewart, with lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse. It paints a picture of the crazy fifties, specifically of the love-struck teenagers of Sweet Apple, Ohio. The focus of the fan club is Conrad Birdie (Christopher Sanches, sophomore), a parodic nod to Elvis Presley.

Conrad has been drafted into the army, which is devastating for all his fans. Rosie (Graciela Aguilar, senior), secretary and lover to Albert (Jayden Forsness, junior), tries to save her man’s career by getting Conrad on the famous Ed Sullivan show. Conrad is to sing a song called “One Last Kiss” that has yet to be written by Albert, and kiss a lucky chosen teenager from Sweet Apple. The “chosen one” is Kim MacAfee (Emma Wrigley, junior), who happens to have been recently pinned for life to her boyfriend, Hugo Peabody (Noah Aguirre, sophomore). With crazy fans and crazy families, especially Albert’s overly attached mother (Cassie Zambrano, senior), Kim’s over-excited father (Jake Estrada, junior), and her Conrad-addicted best friend (Katie Nelson, sophmore), the onstage antics get crazier and crazier by the scene.

“The final product was exactly as I expected it to be, amazing. We refer to the production as the ‘miracle’ show because we didn’t think three weeks would be enough time to pull together a decent show, but we did it. Our dedication and hard work made up for our loss in valuable time,” said Cassie, who had an amazing time playing Mama Mae. Three weeks truly is a miracle, as even most professional productions have more time to prepare.

“Everyone worked incredibly hard and more. Some of us, including myself, Jesse Craig, Jordan Anderson, and Madi Roset, would even stay until midnight working on set on school nights,” Cassie said. “The cast had amazing support from outside volunteers as well, like Mrs. Shockey, who helped us tremendously.”

“I feel very proud and confident that we dug ourselves out of the hole with so little time,” said Jesse, senior, who worked as the set crew head and sang as a quartet member in the musical. “A major barrier that we faced was the lack of confidence in our ability to complete such a task. Luckily, that feeling faded away as the weeks unfolded. Everyone worked tremendously hard.”

Time management was a nightmare. The department faced several obstacles this year, such as losing a valuable member of the production team due to a conflict with the district. Consequently, director Roger Graziani had to hire set directors, a choreographer, and a lighting director, some of whose jobs were once done by a single man.

“Because we lost Angelo, we had to find other people to do the jobs he did, which really affected the small funds we had. Despite these barriers, we wanted to prove that we could overcome any obstacle and still put on an amazing show,” Cassie said.

They did indeed put on a spectacular show. The set was colorful, the actors were dedicated and talented, and the show itself was capturing and hilarious. Past all obstacles, including the director’s broken ankle and the department’s lack of funds, “Bye Bye Birdie” was a success.

“It was so amusing and funny,” said Gabe Cortes, senior, who saw the show two nights in a row. “I was smiling through the whole play. Props to Graz, the director. He obviously knows what he’s doing. I absolutely recommend that people watch future Charter Oak productions, for a good laugh or just to get out.”

The town gossip line goes crazy when Kim MacAfee (Emma Wrigley) is pinned by her boyfriend. Photograph by Sara Barron.
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Bye Bye Birdie, against all odds