HAMILTON — A cast of 60 local children, teens and adults will perform on the Parrish Auditorium stage this week and weekend in Inspiring Arts Productions’ musical “Bye Bye Birdie.”
“We chose the show because it’s a lot of fun. It’s good, family-friendly humor, and there’s great music and dancing, which is what you always look for in a great musical,” said Beth Kenniv, artistic director of Inspiring Arts Productions, and director of the show.
Inspiring Arts Productions will present six performances of “Bye Bye Birdie” Thursday through Sunday.
This large-scale, musical comedy was inspired by the phenomenon of Elvis Presley and his Army draft. The original musical, comedy opened on Broadway in New York in 1960.
As the story unfolds, a teenage rock and roll idol, Conrad Birdie, gets drafted, and his agent and girlfriend come up with a plan for his farewell performance to take place on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” The hope is to sell Birdie’s new song, “One Last Kiss,” and save his record label from going under.
“The show is about a small town in Ohio, and there’s a teenage girl who gets chosen for a publicity stunt for the rock star of the nation,” said Kenniv. “So, it’s basically that little moment in time, or an iconic slice of history of the Elvis craze,” said Kenniv, who was also cast as an extra as a teenager in 1992 in the Broadway show in Detroit starring Tommy Tune and Ann Reinking.
“I have fond memories of this show. The music brings back the very beginnings of my career as a performer and a director. It’s where I started. Then, the next year, I was asked to be the assistant director for the show, and that’s where I started directing,” Kenniv said.
Although it’s a different time in history, there’s so much that we can relate to in the script today, she said.
“It’s fun that the ‘Elvis’ movie just came out, it’s a great movie, and people have gotten revved back up again to remember this time in history. So, we’ve capitalized on that. Our cast members are going to see it, and they’re connecting back to a time in America where things were quite simple, and we’re able to relay that for our audience,” Kenniv said.
Music helps to bring the story to life with songs like “Kids” and “Put On a Happy Face.” It’s energetic and upbeat. Inspiring Arts has also added a couple of tap numbers.
“The show doesn’t originally call for tap dance, but we love to bring the dance up a notch with some tap. So, audiences will see that as well,” Kenniv said.
Evan Blust, 18, of Trenton plays the lead of Albert Peterson in the show. Blust recently graduated from high school, and he plans to major in musical theater at Otterbein University. He has also been involved with several community theater productions across the region. His hobbies include reading, singing, dancing and hanging out with his family and friends.
“I’ve been doing shows for years now, but I’ve never been the leading man before. I feel like I’ve served in more supporting roles, or as part of an ensemble. So, it has been a bit of a challenge to take on the lead role, because you’re in every scene, or if not every scene, almost every scene. You’re just constantly on stage, and always giving a hundred percent, but I’ve just been going at it head-on, and I’m having a blast,” Blust said.
He started performing with Inspiring Arts in 2019 and was part of their production of “Newsies.” He played the character of Davey. Last year, he was part of Inspiring Arts original production called “McBride’s Call.” In addition to Inspiring Arts, he has performed with other local theater groups, including Cincinnati Landmark Productions where he just finished playing the role of “Crutchie” in “Newsies.” He has also performed with Cincinnati Children’s Theater. Blust said he and the cast have been rehearsing for this show for about two months, practicing four times a week.
“The characters are coming out in full force, and it’s entertaining to watch. We have a lot of great actors for their specific parts, and they are elevating what’s written in the script, ten-fold, so it’s been fun, and it’s really coming together,” Blust said.
“Every rehearsal we have, I learn to love the show even more…It has very quickly become one of my favorites,” he said.
Blust said he’s thrilled audiences will have an opportunity to see this adaptation of the show.
“I’m excited for people to sit down, have a good time, and laugh and cry, and to see how entertaining this show can be,” Blust said.
How to go
What: “Bye Bye Birdie”
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday; 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Parrish Auditorium at Miami University Hamilton, 1601 University Blvd.
Cost: Advance online tickets range from $14 to $20 (plus applicable ticketing fees.) Tickets are available online at www.eventbrite.com/cc/bye-bye-birdie-279599.
More info: www.InspiringArtsProductions.com
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