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The age of the teenager recalled in Wootton’s ‘Birdie’ production

Erica Kim, a student at James W. Robinson Secondary School, reviews “Bye Bye Birdie” performed by Thomas S. Wootton High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Wootton’s Jonathan Helwig, Mikaela Katz, Jenay McNeil, Allison Myers, Courtney Pories, Samhita Tankala and Maria Sharova; standing in the background: Kevin Goldberg, Matthew Cho, Christopher Lim, Jeffrey Popkin and Maxim Sobchenko. (Photo by Kenneth H. Cho)

Add a gaggle of giggly girls, a splash of color and a dose of manly swagger, and you’ve got "Bye Bye Birdie." Topped with dancing Shriners and a heartthrob hotter than Twilight's Edward Cullen, Thomas S. Wootton High School’s production of the hit musical was truly spectacular.

"Bye Bye Birdie" was written by Michael Stewart with lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse. It tells the story of Rosie Alvarez, a secretary and the love interest of Albert Peterson, the manager of teen rock star Conrad Birdie. Conrad is drafted into the army, so Albert and Rosie plan to stage a nationally televised farewell party where Conrad will kiss one lucky fan—one Kim MacAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio—goodbye. Problem is, Kim’s boyfriend, Hugo Peabody, is growing jealous, Albert's mother is growing clingy and Rosie is wondering if Albert will ever get around to becoming an English teacher and popping the big question. But in the end, love prevails. Kim and Hugo make up, and Albert quits the music biz to propose to Rosie.

Wootton's cast of talented actors and dancers made viewers forget they were watching a high school production. The actors’ mannerisms were convincing and appropriate for their characters’ stories. For the duration of the play, the audience was shipped back to the age of the teenager—the ‘50s.

Helena Farhi played the strong-willed Rosie and displayed powerful stage presence accentuated by her distinctive singing voice. She delivered astounding energy throughout the show and through demanding dance numbers. Albert, played by Alex Garretson, exuded goofiness. His comedic facial expressions cheered up Sad Girl and the audience during the number “Put on a Happy Face.” With her silky voice and femininity, Lauren Fagan, playing 15-year-old Kim MacAfee, captured the stage. Several audience members joined the Conrad Birdie fan club and shook with giddiness and laughter as Conrad, played by Jonathan Helwig, captivated them with his suave demeanor and slick, Elvis-like voice in “Honestly Sincere.”

But Conrad wasn't the only male to pickpocket hearts. Gavin Kramar, as Hugo, had the kind of charm that audience couldn’t help but adore. Despite a few actors struggling with their lines, the ensemble featured many gems like the comic Ursula Merkle (Divya Mouli), the lovable Harvey Johnson (Mitchell Myers) and a flock of bouncy girls who fawned over Conrad’s every move.

Throughout the show, the lighting crew demonstrated expertise with versatile lighting hues that were appropriate for the emotions portrayed in each scene. The Wootton Pit Orchestra that consisted of an assortment of instruments from flutes to trombones had vibrant clarity, providing delightful music throughout each scene. Despite minor sound static and inconsistent microphone cues, each cast and crewmember boogied on.

Though 2010 might be ripe with iPods and flashy technology, Wootton reminded the audience of exciting, but simpler times, when sock hops, rainbow-colored skirts and getting "pinned" mattered so much. In this sense, their rendition of “Bye Bye Birdie” was a timeless, but scrumptious sugary treat.

By Erica Kim, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  April 22, 2010; 4:48 PM ET
 | Tags: Cappies 2010  
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