Here are some reflections from Scott Hayes, director of Bye Bye Birdie!
The musical’s title character was originally named Conway Twitty. Strouse claimed the production team had no idea that there was an actual Conway Twitty until Twitty threatened a lawsuit, and the name was changed to Conrad Birdie.
The musical had fairly successful out-of-town tryouts, yet arrived in New York with only $245 in advance box office sales. One of the reasons for the poor advance sales was the lack of recognizable stars. Chita Rivera had excelled in West Side Story butwas no box office draw, and her leading men, Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde, were almost completely unknown. The production was a surprise hit, winning four Tony Awards, running for more than 600 performances and spawning the movie version with Ann-Margret and Janet Leigh. Strouse, Adams and Champion (not to mention Rivera, Van Dyke and Lynde) became music theatre royalty, creating other musicals such as Golden Boy, Applause, Nick and Nora, Rags, Hello, Dolly!, I Do! I Do!, and for Strouse —Annie .
When I was asked to direct Birdie in the spring of 2010, I was personally and nostalgically thrilled. I had been introduced to acting during a high school production of Birdie in 1983. However, as I began analyzing the script I realized the musical had been written so the audience would recognize a spoof on current events—rock and roll as a new genre, and that genre’s effects: the cult of celebrity and a growing chasm between the teenage fans and their parents. Our contemporary audience would not be looking at the musical as it was intended.
Last July I was leading a panel for a Christians in Theatre Arts conference during which I asked the creators of the musical spoof Altarboyz if they thought the demise of boy bands would hurt the show’s appeal. They made the point that the male rock celebrity is an enduring American tradition. Right now, my pre-teen daughters are outgrowing Justin Bieber and, before that, the Jonas Brothers. A generation prior screamed for the Backstreet Boys, and the list goes back in time—Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, the Bee Gees, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and, yes, Elvis. Bye Bye Birdie is at once nostalgic and current, spoofing the past and the present.
Bye Bye Birdie runs April 29-May 1 & May 6-8 in the Main Theater
Contact the Box office for tickets today!
757.352.4245 or www.regent.edu/theatre
Adults: $15 — Discount*: $12 — Employees**: $10 — Regent Students: $7
*Includes military, senior, student, alumni and child (age 5-18).
**Includes Regent and CBN employees.