‘Bye Bye Birdie’ indulges audience

Lisa Herdman

The Topeka Civic Theatre cast is performing “Bye Bye Birdie,” a comedy musical about a rock-and-roll artist about to be drafted into the army, at 7 p.m. from July 22 to August 7 at the Helen Hocker Theater in Gage Park.

Albert Peterson, agent and songwriter, finds himself with a huge problem when one of his popular rock-and-roll singers, Conrad Birdie, is drafted into the war. Peterson and his secretary, Rose Alvarez, come up with a final fling to make some money off of the singer before he goes. Birdie will perform a final song, “One Last Kiss,” and provide one of his fans with a kiss on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ to bring in a final flow of money.

I always get nervous when I see a play that has a small set. The set was handmade and consisted of three layers of round landings painted like records with large steps. With such a large cast and a play that requires many different settings, I was worried that the stage would flatten the play with no movement or sense of location, but I was proven wrong. With such a large cast, props were constantly being brought on and off stage. This, in addition with the different colored selected lighting, utilized the set to negotiate different locations. I was really impressed with the quick set changes by the actors.

The actors themselves were younger, teens to early 20s, and were able to play a range of ages. The singing and dancing were spot-on and engaging. Some of my favorite characters were Rose Alvarez, played by Lea Ramos, and Mrs. Mae Peterson, played by McKennzie Duncan. Their voices were polished and played into their characters well. Ramos pulled off some of the hardest dances and songs by herself, including “Rosie,” a song about her learning to live for herself. Her singing was the first thing to pull me into the play.

The comedy element to the play is dry and nudging and has to be delivered correctly to be well-received. Duncan delivered most of the gut-wrenching lines with ease. Her portrayal of Albert Peterson’s mother was believable and entertaining. Her straight-faced delivery of lines that were overly dramatic due to her character’s quick wit really made the play laugh-out-loud funny.

Costumes were believable and minimal. They fit right in with the real styles of the 1960s and added to the setting of the play. They were enjoyable to look at and added to the characters.

I would recommend this play to all ages. The quick-witted humor was right up the alley for adults and the musical elements and dramatic lines made it interesting for children to enjoy. I would watch this play again to pick up more of the underlying elements of the story.

Rating: 4/5 stars