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'Bye Bye Birdie' Recaptures Late 1950s Rock 'n' Roll Era

Summer production runs through Sunday, August 9.

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July 7, 2009
Video produced by Matt Paolelli
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Conrad Birdie, the hip-swiveling, gold lamé-clad rock star in the 1960 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “Bye Bye Birdie,” will be appearing at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus this summer.

“Bye Bye Birdie” will run for 11 matinee and evening shows at the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive, during the Theatre and Interpretation Center of Northwestern University’s 2009 Summer Music Theatre Festival.

Under the direction of Northwestern’s Music Theatre Program director and Joseph Jefferson Award-winning Dominic Missimi, performances of “Bye Bye Birdie” will be held at 8 p.m. Friday, July 24; 8 p.m. Saturday, July 25; 2 p.m. Sunday, July 26; 8 p.m. Thursday, July 30; 8 p.m. Friday, July 31; 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1; 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2; 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6; 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7; 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9.

Missimi is directing “Bye Bye Birdie” for the second time in his professional career. “Birdie” was the first musical he directed shortly after graduating from the University of Detroit in 1966. At the age of 22, he was paid $200 for an eight-week run at St. Mary’s High School in Royal Oak, Mich.

“Forty-three years later ‘Birdie’ remains a timeless classic,” said Missimi. “Staging the show with a 28-member cast of charismatic Northwestern students who are very excited about sporting Pompadour hairdos, learning hip gyrations and wearing gold lamé suits recaptures the energy and naïveté of the era.”

In a world of soda fountains and “getting pinned,” Elvis and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the events in “Bye Bye Birdie” turn a small town upside down when superstar Conrad Birdie arrives in Sweet Apple, Ohio, to give “one last kiss” before his induction into the U.S. Army.

With audience favorites from the original Broadway show, including “The Telephone Hour,” “Put On A Happy Face,” “A Lot Of Livin To Do,” “Shriner’s Ballet,” “Kids” and “Rosie,” this beloved American musical sends up 1950s culture and reminds parents that they will never understand their teenage children.

Michael Stewart, Lee Adams and Charles Strouse’s musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” originally starring Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera, took Broadway by storm in the early 1960s and has become an exhilarating mainstay of stages around the world.

The 1963 film version featured Van Dyke and Northwestern alumnus Paul Lynde recreating their original stage roles, with Janet Leigh, Maureen Stapleton, Northwestern alumna Ann-Margret and Bobby Rydell, completing the movie’s cast. Broadway previews of the Roundabout Theatre’s 2009 revival of “Bye Bye Birdie” will begin in New York this September and will star John Stamos, Gina Gershon, Bill Irwin and Nolan Gerard Funk.

Northwestern’s summer production is set in the late 1950s. An eight-member band on a catwalk high above the stage will provide live music. The stage will resemble a massive jungle gym set, colorfully decorated with boldly-patterned 1950s era fabrics.

“Bye Bye Birdie” will feature choreography by Rachel Rockwell, one of Chicago’s most popular directors and choreographers. Rockwell directed Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace’s production of “Miss Saigon” and The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire’s production of  ”High School Musical.” She also directed and choreographed Marriott’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

“’Bye Bye Birdie’ is a light-hearted family show recommended for children aged eight and older and adults,” said Missimi. “It’s a chance to give your children and grandchildren a snapshot of life in the late 1950s: they will see a lot of ponytails, tennis shoes and teenagers (and even a few parents) chasing after their music idol.”

Single tickets are $25 for the general public; $22 for seniors 65 and older and Northwestern faculty and staff and area educators and administrators; and $10 for full-time students.

Subscriptions for the 2009 Summer Music Theatre Festival season are on sale now. Subscription pricing is $68 for the general public; $61 for seniors 65 and older, Northwestern faculty and staff and area educators and administrators; and $24 for full-time students. This reflects a decrease in subscription pricing from last summer and a 20 percent discount on single ticket prices. For more information, call (847) 491-7282 or visit http://www.tic.northwestern.edu.

(For more information: Nichole Cooper at (847) 467-2426 or n-cooper@northwestern.edu)