SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- This weekend, SPFHS rings in another great Rep theater production, Bye Bye Birdie, which is set in in 1958 in the small Ohio town of Sweet Apple. The story centers around the shenanigans that ensue when rock-n-roll heartthrob Conrad Birdie is drafted into the army and his agent, Albert Peterson (played by senior Josh Wiener), tries to give him the most extravagant goodbye possible.
The plot thickens when Peterson organizes a contest for the last girl Birdie will kiss on the Ed Sullivan Show before he goes off to war. The winner is Kim McAffee (played by senior Julia Guarneri), a teenage girl who has a jaelous boyfriend named Hugo Peabody, played by junior Ryan Lopez). As the tension between Birdie and Peabody rises, behind the scenes Albert is battling his controlling mother (played by senior Avital Abraham) over his career and engagement to his secretary, Rose Alvarez (played by junior Sara Miller).
This production was directed by Courtney Nemec, fifth grade teacher at Park Middle School. She stepped into this role once Jan Allen, the music instructor at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, had to go on medical leave. “It was awesome. The kids were great. It wasn't that hard because they're all so talented. They make the job easy,” stated Nemec.
The show is fast-paced, energetic, and colorful--the perfect combination for an entertaining high school production. As with every year, the students acting in the show were delighted to step into their characters.
Ryan Lopez portrayed Hugo Peabody, a role to which he could relate. “I had always wanted to be in a play as a character who acted as the comic relief. I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty funny guy, so to be able to play someone like me creates a connection between character and real life. I simply act as myself with a new name,” Lopez explained.
Caitlin Bourke, a junior who played the Mayor of Sweet Apple’s wife and was also a dancer in the show, felt that this was a great classic musical to be a part of. "I love how it's really funny, I get to go to into the McAffee’s house and watch Conrad eat and I'm the only adult surrounded by teenage girls who idolize Conrad. And for put on a happy face, that dance is so much fun and it includes moves that I've always wanted to do on stage,” said Bourke.
Rose Alvarez, Albert Peterson’s Latin bombshell secretary and fiance who is portrayed by junior Sara Miller, faces some discrimination from Peterson’s mother in the show, yet remains strong and persistent--and proud of her heritage. “There weren't many challenges I faced with the accent. Accents have always been my thing, and I am good at mimicking voices I hear so I listened to a lot of recordings and just did what came natural. I would say my biggest focus was making sure the accent was as authentic as possible,” reflected Miller on the process of becoming her character.
As it is evey year, this show was an emotional goodbye for the graduating seniors, who contributed greatly to the school’s music department. Senior Ryan Abramowitz, who portrays a dishwasher at a bar in the show, is grateful for the experience rep theater has given him. “As a senior, I can honestly say that rep has been my high school experience. Being with the cast countless hours of rehearsal, you inevitably forge friendships. Rep has made my high school experience so special and unique because the friendships I have made in rep have lasted after people graduate and after the show ends. Backstage during the first scene of our last dress rehearsal I sat and thought about how lucky we all are to be in a school so musically oriented. Music and theatre bring people together, we are simply the connecting pieces,” Abramowitz illustrated.
Meghan Ryan, also a senior, portrays Kim McAffee’s mother in the show. "Rep lets me give something back to the community that gave so much to me. And hopefully I will leave an impact on the people that I meet here, and leave a legacy,” Ryan reflected.
Yet some students are only beginning their high school theater careers, like freshman Tara Kenoff. "It's been a great experience as a freshman, everyone is so welcoming and there's always something to do." Kenoff is a member of the ensemble.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the stage crew and pit band tying everything together. Senior Erin Schetelich, the Stage Manager, spoke of her experience: “I’ve loved working with all of the talented cast crew and pit. This whole thing has given me the opportunity to work with tech before I do it in the real world and I'm really grateful for that. This is my favorite thing.”
Danielle Glickstein, a junior, played percussion in the pit band. "This is my second year in pit orchestra. It's been a really unique experience with talented professionals. I appreciate the opportunity. I love seeing how everything comes together, and being a part of something bigger than myself that contributes to the show as a whole,” Glickstein said.
This show has been comprised of a dedicated group of people who anticipate sharing it with an audience. The show will take place on Friday, March 10th at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 11th at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 12th at 2 p.m, Thursday, March 16th at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 17th at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday March 18th at 7:30 p.m.. Tickets are available at the door or can be purchased from the following link: http://birdiespfhs.brownpapertickets.com.