The Times West Virginian

January 24, 2013

‘Bye Bye Birdie’ at Met this weekend

By Nicole Lemal
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — After seeing her brothers perform with the Morgantown Theatre Company, Rachel Moore decided to give it a shot as well.

More than 13 years later, she is still with the company, a group of people she calls her family, preparing for her next show this coming weekend.

“This sounds so cheesy, but the people I have known through this, they are my family,” she said. “They just have this spice grip on my soul, but they are my family. I could never leave them.” 

“Bye Bye Birdie” will be presented to the public this weekend at the Metropolitan Theatre located on High Street. Show times are scheduled for Jan. 25-26 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for kids 12 and under.

Playing the character of Rosie is an exciting role for Moore.

“She is very headstrong and she wants what she wants, and she’s not afraid to get it,” she said. “It is fun.”

As part of her role, she has a dance routine, which is fairly uncharacteristic of the Morgantown Theatre Company.

“Singing came naturally to them, but the dancing was the biggest challenge in the process,” guest director General McArthur Hambrick said. “They have done a lot of musicals but with minimal dancing.” 

Old-style jazz movement comprises the majority of the show. For Moore, she will have an especially high-energy dance, one she describes as wild. In one scene, she does a tango with another person, mixed in with Spanish puns like dances and cha-chas.

“It’s always fun because there is this wild, Spanish number, and I get to have this crazy accent for a song and do all these really fun dances,” she said. “It was a challenge, but it wasn’t like really hard.”

Seeing the students and actors taking such joy in performing their roles, Hambrick believes they have discovered a new side to themselves they didn’t even know existed. At the same time, they have developed a sense of being a family.

“It’s not their coming out, but they feel like they have found something new within themselves as far as expressing themselves in a different way, especially the younger ones,” he said. “It’s great to see that comradery come out of not only rehearsing the show but also eating lunch together.” 

Set back in the late 1950s, “Bye Bye Birdie” tells the story of a rock ’n’ roll singer who is about to be inducted into the Army. Conrad Birdie, who is an Elvis Presley type, wears gaudy gold costumes and has a pompadour and thick sideburns. His agent Albert has a secretary Rose Alvarez, who keeps Albert and Birdie in line.

Before he leaves, Birdie decided he wants to bid an American teenage girl goodbye with a kiss. Of the many girls, Birdie selects Kim MacAfee in Sweet Apple, Ohio, a town that would be enthralled with his arrival, except for the MacAfee household. MacAfee is a pretty girl of 15.

It was then decided that the last kiss would be given on the Ed Sullivan show, but Kim’s father was not having it.

“The entire town gets wrapped up in this whole kiss and the Ed Sullivan show,” said Hillary Phillips, executive and artistic director.

 A satire done with the fondest affection, “Bye Bye Birdie” is a high-energy show. With the help of Hambrick, who is also a dance professor at West Virginia University, the show is very well choreographed and interesting.

“There is a lot of rock ’n’ roll music, and the sound of the songs is upbeat,” she said. “It’s very fun and lively. With his background in dance, the choreography for the show is pretty intricate.”

In the past, “Bye Bye Birdie” has been in consideration, but this is the first time the Morgantown Theatre Company has decided to commit to this show. Considering the makeup of the cast, it made sense.

“It’s a classic,” Phillips said. “This show has always come up as a possibility. It has a lot of great roles for teenagers. The teenagers are focused in the show, and this program is a children’s theatre so most of the leads are played by our high school students.”

With the added humor to the show, the elaborate dance moves and the story line, it’s all the more reason for people to come out this weekend.

“‘Bye Bye Birdie’ is a classic, and it’s absolutely hilarious,” Moore said. “I can't sit through a practice without laughing at everything that the cast does. It's so fun, and there is so much energy in the show. It’s really great.”

Email Nicole Lemal at nlemal@timeswv.com.