Co-directors Emily Smith and Rhonda Johnson had several reasons for selecting “Bye Bye Birdie” as the Westfield Middle School musical.
“We wanted a show that had kind of a young feel to it where there was a fair amount of choreography,” said Smith, WMS choral director. “In addition, we wanted a show that would appeal to the young people, even though it’s not set in a current time period. It’s set in the late ‘50s, so it’s kind of fun to expose them to a different time period and let them experience music from that time period. They get to try on fun costumes,”
WMS is staging the Young Performers’ edition of “Bye Bye Birdie” March 1 and 2.
The story centers on a rock ‘n’ roll star, Conrad Birdie, who receives his Army draft notice. Struggling songwriter Albert Peterson schemes with his girlfriend, Rose Alvarez, to get Birdie to sing his song “One Last Kiss” before he enlists. He’s also supposed to kiss one of his adoring fans.
Smith said a lot of different musicals were possibilities for this year’s musical.
“We knew with the students we had and their voices, this was a good fit for them,” Smith said.
The lead performers are Charlie Schultz as Peterson, Olivia Bell as Alvarez, Jacob Stone as Birdie and Keegan Connor as Kim MacAfee.
“Some of the students are required to play characters who are different from their normal personalities,” Smith said. “That’s been challenging for a few students. A lot of students in this production haven’t done a lot of theater before, so it’s a great opportunity for them to learn how to act and get some experience on stage.”
Smith said 60 students perform on stage. There are probably another 20 on the tech crew and working lights and sounds.
The performances are 7 p.m. March 1 and 2:30 and 7 p.m. March 2
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students Tickets can be ordered online at wmsdrama.ludus.com or purchased at the door if the performance isn’t sold out.