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Third time's the charm for Bye, Bye, Birdie

By Curtain Call

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Songwriter and agent, Albert Peterson (Justin McArthur) and his secretary, Rose Alavarz (Katie Hoffmeister) agree to disagree in this moment from Curtain Call's production of BYE, BYE BIRDIE, playing in The Kweskin Theatre, August 2 through 11.(contributed photo)
You’ll “Put on a Happy Face” when you see Curtain Call’s 28th annual Summer Youth Theatre production of Bye, Bye, Birdie playing in The Kweskin Theatre, Stamford, August 2 through 11. One of the most-produced high school musicals of all time Bye, Bye, Birdie played previously at Curtain Call in 1993 and 2005.

Bye, Bye, Birdie is America’s first rock and roll musical and received the 1961 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Direction and Best Choreography of a Musical. Written by composer Charles Strouse, Bye, Bye, Birdie features songs like “An English Teacher”, “What Did I Ever See in Him?”, “Put on a Happy Face”, “Kids”, and more, which have become musical theatre classics. Curtain Call’s most recent musicals – Superman and Annie – were also composed by Strouse. Originally titled “Let’s Go Steady,” the book is by Michael Stewart with lyrics by Lee Adams.

Kim Macafee (Julianna Goldfluss) and Conrad Birdie (Jayce Schwartz) get a brief moment alone in Curtain Call's production of BYE, BYE BIRDIE, playing in The Kweskin Theatre, August 2 through 11.(contributed photo)
The story: It is 1958, and America’s teens are swept away by the rock and roll craze, but their idol and heartthrob Conrad Birdie has been drafted to serve in the US Army, leaving many teenage girls beside themselves with grief, not to mention Almaelou Music Corporation (Conrad’s recording label) in a panic! Almaelou co-owner and Conrad’s manager, Albert Peterson, along with his faithful girlfriend and secretary, Rose Alvarez have a plan on how they can give Conrad a proper send-off and still keep teens clambering for more: Conrad Birdie will give one of his adoring, female fans one, last kiss goodbye on the Ed Sullivan show with millions of Americans watching!

Randomly yet fatefully selected for this kiss is 15 year-old Kim MacAfee from Sweet Apple, Ohio – president of the Conrad Birdie fan club. But Kim has just been “pinned” to her steady boyfriend, Hugo Peabody. Can their relationship survive this test? Will the wholesome town of Sweet Apple survive Conrad’s hip-swiveling, degenerative influence? Will the MacAfees survive their home being turned upside-down while Conrad, Albert and Rose stay with them until the broadcast? And when Albert’s domineering and disapproving mother shows up, will Albert and Rosie survive each other?

Dru Serkes as Conrad Birdie in Curtain Call's 2005 production of BYE, BYE BIRDIE...now starring in JERSEY BOYS in NYC. (contributed photo)
“This is the second time that I’m working on Birdie, and I’m having a blast,” said Curtain Call executive director, Lou Ursone. Seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the young cast members harkens back to Ursone’s own beginnings in youth theatre in Stamford. “Friends I made from summer theatre 40 years ago and more, are still in my life…theatre friends are the best,” Ursone said. "I am also thrilled to once again have the support of GenRe as the sponsor of this production," Ursone noted.

Directing this summer’s production is Norwalk resident, Larry Gabbard. While this is his first time directing for Curtain Call, he is no stranger to area audiences having charmed his way into their hearts as Burt in Mary Poppins, as well as in several other shows at the Stamford theatre.

“Larry is a high school principal who loves working with kids and really knows how to encourage and nurture them to do great work,” Ursone said. “I’ve loved watching the rehearsal process with him,” he added.

Other members of the creative team, also from Norwalk, are Tony Bellomy as music director and Kristin Ruggieri as choreographer. Set design is by Curtain Call’s resident designer and associate artistic director, Peter Barbieri, Jr. (Fairfield); costume design is by Megan Latte Ormond (Greenwich). Curtain Call education director, Brian Bianco, serves as producer.

The cast and crew for this production is comprised of students age 10 through 21 and totals 75 and they come from all around lower Fairfield County. Starring as the Birdie in the title, is Stamford resident Jayce Schwartz. He is joined by: Daisy Beach, Lucy Beach, Brooke Boccuzzi, Austin Cappetta, Grace Cashman, Libby Christinat, Sabatino Cruz, Donny DeFala, Caroline Eagleton, Grace Eagleton, Robert Failla, Zachary Foust-Clark, Elsa Franks, Mathew L. Freitas, Liam Gelling, Skye Gillespie, Julianna Goldfluss, Brady Hayes, Patrick Hayes, Nicole Henkel, Arianna Hernandez, Katie Hoffmeister, Grace Huber, Frankie Isola, Theodore King, Courtney Kollar, Aki Lasher, Miya Lasher, Anthony Laszlo, Rachel Lese, Daniel McArthur, Justin McArthur, Michael McArthur, Colleen McCurley, Matthew O’Callaghan, Simon Pepa, Owen Priscott, Sabrina Rollings, Daniella Sallese, Emma Sawch, Lauryn Schiller, Sabrina Sgandurra, Emma Sharma, Sydney Sibilia, Chloe Simner, Kate Sloan, Ava Spinelli Mastrone, Franki Spinelli Mastrone, Tiara Starks, Austin Tovar, Joseph Turner, Zoe Usowksi, Zach Vlcek, Alexandra Watkinson, Zara Williamson.

Performances will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30PM beginning August 2. There will also be one Sunday afternoon at 2PM, August 5, and a Saturday afternoon at 2PM, August 11. The Kweskin Theatre is located at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue, Stamford, CT. Tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for senior citizens and $17.5 for children. Thrifty Thursday tickets are $27.50. Box Office: 203-461-6358 x 36 or on the web at www.curtaincallinc.com.

Fun facts: Many members of Curtain Call’s 2005 Bye Bye Birdie production are making their living in the arts: Benedetta Cordaro, Joe Cordaro, Meredith Hackman, Jake Levitt, Kayla Pavia, Nikki Pelazza, Doug Plaut, Jim Ringel, Laura Sanzo, Teddy Yudain, and, most notably, Cat Yudain, who is currently starring as Lois Lane/Bianca in Kiss Me Kate at the North Street Playhouse, and Dru Serkes, who can now be seen in the NYC production of Jersey Boys!

Curtain Call's 28th kicks off September 14 with Mamma Mia and is followed by The Foreigner, Accomplice, Elf the Musical, A Merry Mulberry Street Musical, and many more. Additional information is available at www.curtaincallinc.com or by calling 203-329-8207.

Curtain Call is the non-profit community-based theatre company in residence at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue in Stamford. Year-round productions and workshops are presented by and for area residents in The Kweskin Theatre and The Dressing Room Theatre.

Curtain Call was voted Fairfield County's BEST LOCAL THEATRE GROUP ten years running in the Annual Readers' Poll of The Fairfield County Weekly and has received similar BEST OF awards from Stamford Magazine and StamfordPlus magazine for 2008 through 2018. Curtain Call received The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2011 and the ACE Award for Excellence in Arts & Culture from the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County.

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