Student actors performed several energetic ensemble numbers such as “The Telephone Hour” seen above.
This season’s Upper Perkiomen High School drama club musical production “Bye Bye Birdie” opened to a phenomenal fan response, receiving standing ovations both last Friday and Saturday evenings.
Staff said hard work and determination from both students and directors over the past four years have made it possible for the cast and crew to enjoy their spotlights this year.
As the musical opens, the audience is transported to the 1950s and introduced to a frazzled momma’s boy, Albert Peterson, played by senior Nathan Smith, who is distraught that his musical star, Conrad Birdie, is being drafted into the U.S. Army.
Stephanie Sirak, making her first appearance on the high school stage, takes on the character Rosie Alvarez, Albert’s faithful secretary and love interest. She concocts a scheme to send Birdie (junior Kevin Weeks) off with one last kiss to a lucky lady. Enter sweet, naïve Kim MacAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio, whose character was developed by actress Eleanor King.
From this point on, the crowd is treated to the nostalgia of poodle skirts and pompadours, along with energetic ensemble numbers such as “The Telephone Hour” and talented solos by King, Sirak, Smith and Weeks. An impressive tap number included the skills of Albert Peterson and featured dancers Denise Hernandez, Breanna Watkins, and Leah Hale.
Eleanor King performs a solo number in her first visit to the stage as the character Kim MacAfee who is the lucky lady to receive one last kiss from Conrad Birdie before he heads off to the Army.
“The music is catchy; it’s just a fun show,” explained “Birdie” Director Alicia Cortese. “There are no dark undertones, [and] it has a lot of humor in it, so the kids could enjoy it while the older generation enjoys it as well.”
This is embodied in characters such as Randolph MacAfee and Hugo Peabody, played by Jack Donahue (freshman) and Christian Nonneman (sophomore) respectively. Donahue brought in laughs for his role as the adoring son of Mr. MacAfee as Nonneman lit up the stage as Kim’s “steady,” getting drunk on milk and somersaulting across the stage.
President of the Drama Club Emily Baver took on the role of the ornery Mae Peterson, endearing herself to the audience with her biting wit and hilarious antics, such as stuffing herself in a trashcan, kneeling in an oven, and the list goes on.
Contention stemmed from Nolan Benner who hammed it up as the disgruntled Mr. MacAfee. Side by side with his stage wife Kate Allebach and multiple members of the UPHS faculty, Benner bemoaned the new generation and the introduction of rock and roll.
Faculty played a huge part in this year’s production both onstage and offstage; Humanities teacher Tom Hontz mimicked the voice of Ed Sullivan. Caren Miller, a mathematics teacher, assisted in the dancing portion of the show and appeared as one of the angry parents.
“What I really like is getting to see the students do something other than academics and completely getting into it, because I don’t get to see that enthusiasm in geometry or calculus… Every time I come in I am impressed with their singing abilities, which are astounding, and [I get to] watch them act and get into their roles, which they do very well; there is tremendous talent here,” said Miller.
The Upper Perkiomen High School drama club presented the musical production of“Bye Bye Birdie” last Friday and Saturday. Junior Kevin Weeks, center, as Conrad Birdie, is greeted on stage by a mob of screaming girls.
As of 2008, putting on shows at this level, or musicals at all, was just a dream. After advocating for years, Dr. Mark Thomas, with former Director Bunny Krogslund, received permission to put on the first musical in 20 years, “Oklahoma!”
Roll-over funding now allows musicals to run every year, Thomas said. And the acting/singing bug has bitten as the number of students auditioning has nearly doubled since the first year.
Other changes include the contribution of parent volunteers who formed the UPHS Drama Booster Club in 2010, which assists in fundraising, ticket sales, costumes and set build.
“Theater is a community sport; it relies on every single person who is involved in the show and outside of the show…We would not be able to do the things we do without the outpouring of support we get from parents, students, and people in the community, whether that be from donations, moral support, or enthusiasm and time,” said Director Alicia Cortese.
Curtains have now closed on “Bye Bye Birdie.” Though farewells for the close cast and crew members were reportedly bittersweet, the up-and-coming stars are eager to have their chance to shine in next year’s production.