[THEATER REVIEW] ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ (Lehi Arts Council)

Part of the reason I love musical theater so much is it was such a positive part of my childhood and teen years. Whether it was being in community roadshows and dance recitals as a little girl, or being in high school productions it was always a positive experience and one I look back on with a lot of fondness. One of the plays I was in while in high school was the classic show Bye Bye Birdie. I played both a teenager in the early scenes and an adult in the later scenes and I had a blast.

As you can imagine, it was with great nostalgia that I went to see Bye Bye Birdie playing at the Lehi Arts Council (showing at the Willowcreek Middle School in Lehi) this weekend. I didn’t know how the show would hold up but I’m delighted to say it for the most part does and the production was delightful.

Bye Bye Birdie tells the story of the chaos that comes when an Elvis type named Conrad Birdie decides to give a kiss to one lucky fan before he enters the army. This is of course very exciting to the young girl who gets the kiss, Kim McAfee and a whole lot of stress for his manager Albert, his girlfriend Rosie, and Kim’s family and friends.

Many will no doubt remember the filmed version of Bye Bye Birdie featuring Dick Van Dyke as Albert. While Van Dyke is great in the lead role the movie suffers from some bad casting including Ann-Margaret who does not look like a teenager in the slightest and Janet Leigh who is all wrong for the Spanish-American Rosie.

Instead of the movie, I recommend seeing Bye Bye Birdie on the stage. It’s a really great show for high schools to do because it has so many teenager roles and catchy songs. Lehi Arts Council takes full advantage of these bonuses with a large and boisterous cast. All the leads are strong with Diane Tuft as Kim MacAfee and Ryan Withers as Mr MacAfee being the standouts. The chorus scenes are also great with Lily Elison stealing every scene she’s in as the manic fan Ursula Merkle.

The production quality was also high with terrific sets, costuming and catchy choreography. This kind of show is usually plagued with bad sound but for the most part that was done well here. It seemed like a great community effort and that everyone was having a wonderful time (which is the main goal of these types of shows to begin with).

The downside to Bye Bye Birdie is being a show from 1960 there are parts that are outdated. Albert treats Rosie so badly you want her to punch him in the nose and leave him. Mrs Peterson, while amusing at times, is so blatantly racist it’s tough to endure and even the possessive nature of all the men over the women in their lives is uncomfortable for modern audiences. It’s certainly not enough to ruin the show but it is the main downside. Perhaps if they did a revival one of these days they could update some of those dated elements out? Like Thoroughly Modern Millie it could use a new edit.

That said, I had a great time watching this version of Bye Bye Birdie. It’s being put on by the Lehi Arts Council until August 7th and I highly recommend checking it out! You’ll have a blast! You can buy your tickets here.

8 out of 10

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