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Bye, Bye Birdie… Hello, John Stamos!

September 14, 2009
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I’m recovering from a cold that knocked me out of commission on Friday, so I wasn’t able to post my review of the new (again) Broadway show, Bye, Bye Birdie.

My friend, Amanda, invited me to attend the premiere preview of the show last Thursday evening. A preview (which I had to look up) is a series of performances that occur before opening night so that the actors can get used to performing in front of an audience, adjust their timing for laughter and dramatic pauses, and also to work out any little kinks that might happen since the preview is a full run-through of the show.

I had never seen Bye, Bye Birdie before and didn’t know that much about the play. Essentially, it’s a musical about a Elvis-like pop star, Conrad Birdie (played by a total unknown actor) from the ’50s who is about to be sent off to war. His agent, Arthur (played by John Stamos), is trying to arrange a big send-off for him while also dealing with his frustrated secretary/girlfriend and scheming, meddling, co-dependent mother. The crux of the play is hinged on Conrad performing, and then kissing, the president of his fan club in Sweet Apple, Ohio – but she has a new boyfriend who is totally and completely jealous. Hijinks ensue!

Well, I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. Bad news first:

It’s really not that amazing of a play. I have seen a fair number of Broadway plays (I think around 10) and every time I leave a show, I always think, “Now that was my favorite!”

I didn’t think that this time. Sure, John Stamos is cute, and he doesn’t have that bad of a voice. And the man can dance (when pressed to). But he just didn’t seem like BROADWAY material. Neither did his co-star, Gina Gershon. Although she did have a strong performance during one of her last songs, I was surprised by how weak her voice sounded. I’m not sure if she was nervous or just not very good, but she did not sound like Broadway.

The good:
Everyone else, actually. The kids in the play were AWESOME. They were so energetic and enthusiastic about being in the show, and you could tell they were having such a good time. They were really talented too, both in acting and in dancing. I really think Allie Trimm, who played the fan club’s president, will be a leading lady someday. She was adorable. The scenes where it was just the kids, or at least had the kids in it, were actually my favorite scenes. Typically child actors are either 1) annoying or 2) just bad. But I thought they were great.

End result:
If you really, really like Bye, Bye Birdie, this might disappoint. If you’re a Broadway novice, then you probably won’t know any better because the show didn’t suck, it just wasn’t great. Amanda and I theorized that the show probably would only run for a few months.

Still, seeing John Stamos in person was great. He has aged quite well…

8 Comments
  1. September 14, 2009 2:29 PM

    Oh, boy…BBB was a high school musical back in my day (mid-80s). Not a great one but pleasant enough–personally I think it hasn’t aged well. The film version w/Ann-Margret is better than the play, if you ask me😉 Gina Gershon is, um, NOT who I would picture in that role…but then again, John Stamos is a far cry from the manager too.

    I hear the “West Side Story” revival is great. Wish I could see it!

  2. cuteellaisbold permalink
    September 14, 2009 2:39 PM

    Oh maybe because it brings back such great memories, but Bye Bye Birdie is one of my favorite shows that I’ve ever worked on (Next to Once Upon a Mattress) I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it.

    • September 14, 2009 3:22 PM

      Ella,

      No, I did enjoy it – I just didn’t leave it thinking it was a GREAT Broadway play. I loved the kids, and the story was fun. I just didn’t think John Stamos and Gina Gershon are necessarily Broadway material, and I think that people who love that musical might be a bit disappointed with their performances. That’s all.

      Cheers.

  3. Arielle permalink
    September 14, 2009 3:05 PM

    A piece of Broadway trivia for you! There are two major non-profit theatres in New York who maintain Broadway houses, Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout (which has two Broadway venues, American Airlines Theater and Studio 54). Because Bye Bye Birdie is part of the not-for-profit Roundabout season and is not an independent commercial venture, it’s unlikely to close earlier than planned (I think it’s a 3 or 4 month run), and will also probably not stay open longer unless there’s a huge interest.

    If you are interested in seeing the work that some smaller companies are doing, I can give you some recommendations. Off-Broadway shows are usually better quality (though with less spectacle) and are almost always less expensive!

    • Jenny permalink
      September 26, 2009 8:53 PM

      I’m headed to NYC for the first time mid-October. I’d love to hear your recommendations for off-broadway. Thanks!

      • September 27, 2009 9:49 AM

        Jenny,

        I actually have never seen anything off-Broadway before, so I don’t have any tips. However, Arielle, who commented earlier, is an off-Broadway afficiando, so I will send her your email address and have her get in touch with you with some tips, OK?

        Cheers,
        Allison

  4. September 18, 2009 9:00 AM

    Do you watch “Mad Men” on A&E? On the show, they were just working an an ad for Diet Patio soda and they used the opening of Bye Bye Birdie with Ann Margaret for inspiration.

    • September 18, 2009 9:33 AM

      Yeah, one of my co-workers was just telling me about that. I don’t watch Mad Men (never had the time to get into it) but I’ve seen clips and it looks good.

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