Drury Lane’s BYE BYE BIRDIE Brilliantly Reinvents The Classic Musical
Reviewed by: Russell Goeltenbodt
After seeing a revival of a famous Broadway show, it is great to recall the memory of seeing the show for the very first time. However, when you see a revival and it is made new with updated with technology, fresh direction, and choreography, it creates a new memory. The Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook has done just that with this season’s production of Bye Bye Birdie.
From the time I sat down in my seat until the final curtain, I felt that I was seeing this show for the very first time. The brilliant scenic projection design by Christopher Ash along with the fantastic direction and choreography by Tammy Mader reinvented this classic musical. Combining that with a talented cast made Bye Bye Birdie one terrific show. In my opinion, it is not a revival. It is a reinvented show that pulled out all of the stops.
Most of the cast were young and brought freshness to the feel of the production. Notable performances were given by Lauren Turlington, (as Kim MacAfee); the energetic romantic smitten teenage girl who was pinned by her boyfriend Ryan Stajmiger, (as Hugo Peabody) and then was selected to give “One Last Kiss” to teenage heartthrob and hunk Jason Michael Evans, (Conrad Birdie). Kim’s dilemma was that her excitement with having a commitment from boyfriend Hugo was thwarted when Kim was selected the national representative to receive Birdie’s final kiss before entering the armed forces. All three of these young performers gave it their all and sang and danced with great energy. Comic relief was throughout the performance by Catherine Smitko, (as Mae Peterson) songwriter, Albert Peterson’s, controlling, smothering, guilt giving mother. Matt Crowle, (as Albert Peterson) was the spineless songwriter who is obedient to his controlling mother and is unable to commit to his secretary and girlfriend, Michelle Aravena, (as Rose Alvarez). Another humorous performance was given by George Wolff, (Mr. MacAfee) who was Kim’s father who had no control over his family and was animated through his many facial expressions .
However, considering all of the talent from this outstanding cast, the featured artist of this production was, Michelle Aravena (Rose Alvarez), who gave one heck of a performance. Her singing and dancing reminded me more of Chita Rivera, rather than Janet Lee from the movie. Michelle Aravena’s energy and on-stage chemistry created a magical experience. Michelle’s movements were smooth, as was her entire performance. During her dance number with the Shriners, she brought excitement. Michelle Aravena is fabulous! Along with Matt Crowle’s, comedy, the Mama’s boy song writer added to Tammy Mader’s superb choreography.
The scenic projection and revolving stage seamlessly created efficient scene changes which moved the performance along at a timely pace. My favorite scenes were the Telephone Hour, We Love You Conrad and Spanish Rose, along with the dance with the Shriners. The rapid pacing with the quick scene changes helped to reinvent this production of Bye Bye Birdie. Additionally, it freed the stage from unnecessary props which takes away from the performance and adds to the timing.
Drury Lane’s reinvention is a definitely a must see so even if you have seen Bye Bye Birdie before, you too will feel like you are seeing it for the very first time.
Bye Bye Birdie is appearing at the Drury Lane Theatre 100 Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace, Il 60181 runs through. Performances are Wednesdays 1:30, Thursdays 1:30 & 8 p.m., Fridays 8:00 p.m., Saturdays 5 & 8:30 p.m., Sundays 2 & 6 p.m. Tickets are available through the Drury Lane Theater Box Office. at 630-530-0111, or through Ticketmaster 800-745-3000; or by visiting on line DruryLane Theatre.com. Dinner and show packages are also available.