Book by Michael Stewart
Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Lee Adams

INFO:

Opened at the Martin Beck Theatre    April 14, 1960    607 performances
Original Director: Gower Champion
Original Choreographer: Gower Champion
Original Producer: Edward Padula
Original Leads: Albert: Dick Van Dyke   Rose: Chita Rivera   Mr. MacAfee: Paul Lynde   Mae Peterson: Kay Medford
Cast Size: Male: 4 plus a boy, about age 12    Female: 4    Ensemble: around 16-24    Total Cast Size: 25-35 ish
Orchestra: 19, but can be done with far less.  Piano, bass, percussion, guitar can do it.
Published Script: None
Production Rights: Tams Witmark
Recordings: Numerous. I like the orchestrations for the film a lot, but they cut some songs, including “Baby, Talk To Me.” The original Broadway is fine.
Film: With Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Paul Lynde, and the one-and-only Anne Margaret. Tons of fun to watch, I recommend it. It was also done in a TV version in 1995, in which new songs were added, and other changes made. It’s fair, I like the movie better.
Other shows by the authors: Both together: Golden Boy; It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s Superman; Applause    Strouse: Annie
Awards: 4 Tonys for Best Musical, Best Director (Champion), Choreography (Champion).

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

I did this show in High School. It’s a perfect show for High School, kid’s groups, colleges and universities. Dinner Theaters could do this show well. It requires a fair-sized cast, most of them “teens”, and that is part of what makes it work for groups like these. It would work even better with young groups if mature actors could be imported for Albert, Rose, and Mae, and possibly Mr. and Mrs. MacAfee.

The show is fantastic fun, but there is a lot of singing and dancing done by the younger (and the older) cast.

A good show for large rep companies and stock companies looking for a bigger show that will truly entertain. Regional theaters might do it, but they would be competing with every local High School and College production. Could certainly be revived on Broadway with the right leads…but not for much longer. I explain why under “Be warned”, below.

Be Warned:

This is a real full-blooded Musical Comedy, lots of singing and dancing, with pseudo-quasi-almost-not quite rock music circa the 50s. It is romantic silliness at it’s best, and this is one of the most fun shows to do. But if your audience wants more serious or “deep” shows, this isn’t the one. If you haven’t a decent choreographer and some reasonably skilled singing dancers, not the show for you. It’s a fairly large show, and fairly expensive to do.

There is one thing about Birdie that concerns me. It is in danger to a small degree of becoming a dinosaur. So long as people remember Elvis and rock music from the 50s, this show will have a devoted audience. (And by the way, the show MUST be done in the period, it cannot be updated with Ed Sullivan and other dated references, not to mention the going-off-to-war story, and the Elvis-like character of Conrad Birdie)

When the world moves on and forgets the period, this show will become a relic. That will be unfortunate, because it also happens to be, beyond a love letter to the Rock & Roll 50s, a well-crafted, and truly fun musical.

With a young cast, you might want to cut the Shriner’s Ballet. If you use an adult Rose with kid Shriners, you will need to cut this number absolutely. Just have them swarm her or corner her and cut to the next moment in the show.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: At Albert Peterson’s music publishing firm, Almalou. The company is broke. Albert begs a General not to take his one hope into the army, Conrad Birdie, famous Rock singer, not until he sings a song Albert has composed for the man. And his secretary (and love of his life), Rosie, is quitting because he won’t marry Rosie while his mother, Mae, so disapproves (of anyone and everyone). Albert insists that a change like his getting married could kill his mother, and Rosie points out that a silver bullet couldn’t kill her. She begs him to keep his promise, marry her, and become “An English Teacher”, rather than a failed songwriter. He agrees to do so as soon as the company is in the red, and she agrees.

To that end, Rosie has a plan. She places a phone call to Kim MacAfee, President of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club, in Sweet Apple, Ohio. Her plan? Albert will write a song, “One Last Kiss”. Birdie will sing it to this randomly selected fan as he rides off into the sunset and the army for two years. The event will be televised. The song will become a huge hit. Albert will marry, and go back to college for his teaching degree. The line is busy.

The line is busy because every teenager in Sweet Apple is calling every other teen. It’s “The Telephone Hour”, and the gossip is running fast and furious that Hugo Peabody has pinned Kim, they are a couple. (One of the most theatrical and fun numbers ever.) Kim dwells on her “adult” life, “How Lovely To Be A Woman”. She gets the call from Rosie, and suddenly she’s a screaming, gibbering teenager.

Fan club girls practice “We Love You Conrad”, their club song, waiting for Conrad. Albert sees a very sad teen-aged girl, and there will be none of that. He encourages her to “Put On A Happy Face”. They all hurry to the train to watch Conrad off, except Albert, waiting for his mother, Mae. Mae arrives, and she is the mother from hell. She will sacrifice everything, her last breath, to her son…to instill him with a crushing guilt. Albert tells his mother he’s going to marry Rose, and she gives him some final advice before she walks home 107 blocks, and dies. He ends up not even telling her. Conrad makes his appearance, the crowds go wild. (“A Fine, Upstanding, Patriotic, Healthy, Normal American Boy”) The train takes off for Sweet Apple.

Arriving in Sweet Apple, fan clubs again sing the beloved hymn to Conrad. But the boys in town hate Conrad, and led by Hugo, sing of their hate for him. Hugo confronts Kim and lets her know she should not go around kissing other men after getting pinned to him. She let’s Hugo know he is the “One Boy” for her, and he should not worry. Then, Conrad arrives. He sings one song, “Honestly Sincere”, and all the women in town, including Kim, lose their minds and faint.

At the MacAfee house. The girls have promised to sing the Birdie song 10,000 times, and they’re only past 5,000. Mr. M., a bit of a curmudgeon and prototype middle-class dad, is trying to live a normal life, but that has become impossible. And Conrad is on his way to the MacAfee house, where he’ll be staying. He walks in, says “call me for lunch”, and heads up to his room. Mr. M. has had it. But Albert makes a deal with the man. He promises that when Conrad sings his song and kisses Kim on the Ed Sullivan Show (the biggest TV show of its time), Mr. M. will be allowed to make an appearance. And suddenly, the MacAfee family sings a “Hymn For A Sunday Evening”, dedicated to Ed Sullivan.

Backstage at the Sullivan show. Albert tells Rosie he wrote his mama and told her he’s quitting the music business. Mae shows up and suggests that since Albert is dissolving the company named for her and her long-dead husband, Lou, Albert should also dissolve his mother. She can see her son is upset, and has brought him a gift (which is more for Rosie’s eyes), a gorgeous blonde bombshell of a secretary. Rosie is furious as Albert “interviews” the girl, Gloria. On stage, Sullivan introduces Birdie, who will sing “One Last Kiss”, plant one on Kim, and go off into the military. But Hugo ruins it all, stepping in and cold-coking Conrad on international TV. Albert wants to know who let Hugo in, and Rosie proudly tells him she did, and she’s leaving. Albert begs her not to leave him alone, and she points out that right now, they’re not alone – they’re on TV.

ACT TWO: Rosie and Kim decide that men are worthless. (“What Did I Ever See In Him”) Albert, and unfortunately Mae, take care of Conrad, who wants to be left alone. Rosie enters the MacAfee house, and for a moment, Albert tries to be a real man, but he collapses as she departs and begs her to come back. So he lets it be known to the others he forcefully fired her (he didn’t), even as Kim tries to run away with Rosie. Kim is going to die her hair, but her father lets her know it’s not her hair until she’s 21, and sends her to her room. Desperate, Albert starts after Rose, but he’s stopped by his mother with a message from Birdie – he’s going out, and probably won’t make it back on time to kiss Kim. Birdie joins them, and lets Albert know he tense, he needs to get out, there’s “A Lot Of Livin’ To Do”. And Kim plans joining him out on the town. The two head out to party, which Conrad knows how to do. Hugo shows up at the house and asks Mr. M. where Kim is. Mr. M. doesn’t know – she went out with Birdie. Albert rushes in, asks Mr. M. where Birdie is. Mr. M. lets Albert know he plans to shoot Birdie, and then bemoans the undisciplined, unruly condition of “Kids” today.

Albert comes through, looking for Rosie, followed by his nagging mother. MacAfee finds Albert, and lets him know Birdie has run off with his daughter. It’s a nightmare. (“Kids” reprise.)

Hugo goes to Maude’s Roadside Retreat (a local bar), and tries to get drunk, but is refused. Rosie ends up at Maude’s Roadside Cafe. Albert finds her via the phone and sings with other guys at the bar, “Baby, Talk To Me” (beautiful song), but she’s had it with him. She sees a bunch of men in fezzes, and decides it’s time she got a new man. She does a seductive dance for them (Shriner’s Ballet) and they go mad. She barely escapes with her life, thanks to Hugo and Albert.

It’s then Birdie rushes desperately on and begs Albert to protect him from the fans, the kids he’s gotten so riled up they’re beyond sanity. A cop offers to arrest Birdie, and he gratefully complies. Kim and Hugo are reunited. Rosie lets Mae know that she’s had it with the woman, she is keeping Albert, and what’s more…she’s “Spanish Rose”. Albert tells Mae to go home, and in her manner, she treats it like a death sentence, insisting he wrap her up and toss her in the river. He doesn’t care.

Albert bails Birdie from jail and sneaks him to the train station dressed as a woman. He sends his mother on the same train. He then boards another train with “Rosie”, to a happy ending in Pumpkin Falls, Iowa, where ab English teacher’s job has opened…though they want the teacher to be married.

THE SONGS:

“An English Teacher”, “The Telephone Hour”, “”How Lovely To Be A Woman”, “We Love You, Conrad”, “Put On A Happy Face”, “A Fine, Upstanding, Patriotic, Healthy, Normal American Boy”, “One Boy”, “Honestly Sincere”, “Hymn For A Sunday Evening”, “One Last Kiss”, “What Did I Ever See In Him?”, “A Lot Of Livin’ To Do”, “Kids”, “Baby, Talk To Me”, “Shriner’s Ballet”, “Spanish Rose”, “Rosie”

Hits include: “The Telephone Hour”, “Put On A Happy Face”, “Hymn For A Sunday Evening”, “A Lot Of Livin’ To Do”, “Kids”. But this is really one of the most fun and memorable scores ever written for a Broadway show, and just about every number sticks.

MY OPINIONS:

As always, you can elect to skip my opinions and rating.  But be advised if you do, it could be, well, bye bye, birdie…

This is one of the most fun Musicals to perform, to watch, to be involved in. It is entertaining and pro from beginning to end. It’s a high-energy feast of memorable melodies, funny and snappy dialogue, with a silly story that just manages to hold everything together. In short, this is a very good Musical Comedy.

I hope this show lives forever, and is venerated, as I believe certain Musicals should be, alongside the best of modern plays. But shows that rely on a period, a historical moment in time, or a historic musical or presentational style, very often become dated. And I do fear that Birdie may see the end of the line someday soon, perhaps in the next decade or so. There are many elements to the show that potentially date it. These include extensive use of land line phones, extensive references and scenes involving train travel, and all of the 50′s satire, which takes care of a large part of the score. Not to mention Ed Sullivan, long dead and largely forgotten, I’m afraid. All of these elements of the show demand it be presented “in period.” And that period will progressively lose its hold on our memories and imaginations. This is a show with a limited shelf life. The fact that it was one of the most produced of all Musicals for about 40 years speaks for its overall quality, but it isn’t going to save the show as the decades fly.

MY RATING: ** (An excellent show, well worth considering.)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

The score is fun and high-energy. It does have a fair amount of harmonic work, and counterpoint, and is not the simplest score to teach, but it isn’t too hard. Your leads will all need to sing decently, but not brilliantly. Same goes for your ensemble. Perhaps the hardest piece to sing is “Baby, Talk To Me”, a beautiful, romantic barbershop quartet-type number. Albert, your lead, sings it with men at a bar, usually three of them. They will all need to harmonize quite well, and have lovely voices.

About your orchestra, the music is high energy and moves along. Get players who pay attention, and who are reasonably pro. The show could be done with two keyboards, an electric bass, percussion, and guitar.

Albert – Lyric baritone, pleasant, sweet voice, a nice man’s good voice.

Rose – Alto with warmth, a belt, a fine voice.

Kim – Soprano in her teens, a voice just awakening to adulthood and sexuality.

Conrad Birdie – Lyric baritone with an edgy, rock feel, Needs a decent range, a fair belt.

Mae – Non-Singing.

Hugo – Tenor, limited singing.

Mr. MacAfee – Lyric Baritone, comic, excellent at acting while singing. Decent at harmonizing.

Mrs. Macafee – Mezzo, good at harmony, clean, clear.

Randolph – Tenor, clean, clear, good at harmonizing.

Ursula – Mezzo, teen-age sound to her voice.

Ensemble – Lots of roles. The teens should have strong, clear voices, some ability to harmonize, good belts. Older roles outside the men at the bar for “Baby, Talk To Me” don’t sing much, but they should sing enough to work with an ensemble, good pitch, decent harmonizing skills. The men at the bar are obviously the parts of a quartet, but with a warm, sweet, romantic sound.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

There are some big dance numbers in Birdie. Your choreographer will need to be comfortable with numerous styles. These would include a take-off on 50s rock singers like Elvis. But the Choreographer must also work well with ensembles on more traditional Musical Comedy set pieces.

Numbers the Choreographer will need to handle most likely include “The Telephone Hour”,“We Love You, Conrad”, “Put On A Happy Face”, “A Fine, Upstanding, Patriotic, Healthy, Normal American Boy”,“Honestly Sincere”,“One Last Kiss”, “What Did I Ever See In Him?”, “A Lot Of Livin’ To Do”, “Kids”,“Shriner’s Ballet”, “Spanish Rose”, and “Rosie”. That would be most of the score. The group numbers need to be high energy and precise, as well as filled with humor based on the characters, the situation and the time period.

“The Telephone Hour” has somewhat famous choreography, where Gower Champion placed all the kids in a big segmented open box, each kid in his own compartment facing the audience, if funny and teen-like poses that changed as they gossiped and agonized, each with a phone (land line) in hand. On stage, you’ll probably need to replicate to some extent his approach. The song becomes largely about posing, then moving to another pose, and freezing when that teen is not conversing. All the individual movement adds up to a picture of teen-aged endless gossip, energized and “important” to the kids.

“We Love You, Conrad” is a lot of hands-to-hearts swears. Little dance if any.

“Put On A Happy Face” is the best known song from the show, and ends with an adult man dancing with a teen-aged girl, to cheer her up and make her laugh. And it must be made painfully, abundantly clear to the audience that those are the only reasons he is dancing with a teen-aged girl! He is a good-hearted man, not a pervert. Spell it out…and make her and the audience laugh with his desperate antics calculated to win a smile from the young, lonely girl. It should be a moment where the plain Jane gets tons of attention and even a kind of acceptable love, and it should truly move and delight. Don’t let it become anything else. It’s not a straight “dance”, does not need to get too fancy. It needs to always be an effort to get her to grin. That’s the entire focus of the movement in the song.

“Fine, Upstanding” is an attempt by Albert and Rosie to control the “message” regarding Birdie, to the press and the world. It is a big ensemble number, funny, and filled with disparate groups each trying to get their own message in. It’s a comedic train wreck of ideas and messages creating a united image of the world revolving around Birdie and his fame.

“Sincere”, and “One Last Kiss” are lampoons of Elvis. “Sincere” literally knocks an entire town unconscious with Birdie’s twitching hips and raw, animal sexuality. It will need to be thoroughly choreographed. His other number, “A Lot Of Livin’”, is his wild, uncontrolled night on the town, with his young fans collecting around him, and perhaps finally overwhelming him. He has an effect on everyone he meets.

There are a few character Musical Comedy numbers that need limited but planned movement. These include “Kids”, “Spanish Rose”, “Rosie”, and maybe “An English Teacher”. Kids is a parental lament, bitter, brutal, self-involved, honest and funny. It is about family, and that should be the core of the movement’s details. “Spanish Rose” is Rosie totally dissing Mae, putting out a thick, ridiculous portrayal of her “Latina” background. (Has she any? Maybe, maybe not. She does this to anger Mae.) Since the number is directed at Mae, all the “Spanish-sms” should be extreme, over the top, rose-in-the-teeth and castanets, and aimed at Mae.

Rosie is a very old-fashioned (1930s-ish), clean, clear, simple statement of affection between Albert and Rosie, with a small cake-walk somewhere as they walk arm-in-arm. It needs and asks for none of the energy of the rest of the score, it is the period at the end of a long and excited sentence. The simpler, the better.

You’ll need some dancers amongst the kids who are cast.

CASTING CONCERNS:

Albert – Late 20s-mid 40s. A good man with a kind heart. A nebbish, suppressed by his mother in every way imaginable, which she is only able to do because he does not want to hurt her. Because he is well-meaning, he is an easy target for Mae and others, he feels guilt easily and unnecessarily. Must be very likeable, because he does a few unlikeable things and we need to care for the character in spite of them. Must dance well, and even with flair. Cast for acting, voice, and dance, but all three need to be there.

Rose – A bit younger than Albert, perhaps as much as ten years. Very smart and quick on her feet, the brains in the outfit. A woman who knows what she wants and will go to some lengths to get it, with great patience (too much patience, perhaps) and determination. Must be quite attractive and even sexy, to get all those Shriners going. And we wonder, since Birdie seems to have an impact on every woman, how can Rosie be immune? Cast for acting and type, dance, voice, but you’ll need the whole package.

Kim – Supposedly 15, cast an older actress, at least legally adult age, to avoid extra costs. Just getting into her adult figure and figuring out how to use it and what it means. She should be a young man’s dream, an older man’s nightmare. Self-involved, young, unworldly, attempting to portray herself as sophisticated when she is completely not. Cast for age and type, singing, acting, dance, burt really must do all well.

Conrad Birdie – In his twenties, a superstar rock star, plays guitar, sings, twitches with expertise rare indeed. But in the end, just a young guy in way over his head, who really likes fame and girls. Cast for type, singing, movement, acting, but needs to be decent at all of the above, and if plays electric guitar well, great!

Mae – Anywhere from her 50s-mid 60s, the mother from hell. Layers on guilt like it’s peanut butter. Utterly self-involved. Is there any question that Albert is her only child? Requires a truly funny actress who can pour on ethnic guilt without mercy. Cast for type, acting.

Hugo – About Kim’s age, maybe a year older. A clean-cut, dedicated American boy, a bit square and old-fashioned, but endearing. Must play a fair range of emotions, from infatuated and elated, to brutally jealous (he punches a guy on national TV), to drunk and miserable, to elated again. Cast for type, acting, voice, movement.

Mr. MacAfee – 40s-mid 50s. A sarcastic, cynical, middle-America working kind of man, white collar but none too bright. He trusts no one, least of all his own children, whom he also has no respect for. Like everyone, he’s overwhelmed by celebrity – but draws the line where his family is concerned. Needs a very funny actor. Cast for type, acting, voice.

Mrs. Macafee – Around her husband’s age. Long-suffering, a good soldier, also thrilled by celebrity. And by the way, Birdie is staying in her house, and she’s not dead yet. Cast for type, acting, voice.

Randolph – Kim’s 12 year-old (or so) brother. A good kid, trying to help out when he can. (Nope, he’s not the jerk little brothers movies seem to specialize in today.) Cast for type and age, voice, acting.

Ursula – Kim’s friend and rabid member of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club. Fanatical, urgent, desperate, hormone-drenched, a Birdie Nazi. Cast for type and age, acting, voice, movement.

Ensemble – (See vocal notes.) You’ll need at least 8-12 teenagers around the age of Kim and Hugo who can sing, dance, do some acting. You’ll need some mature actors to play the Mayor and his wife, small roles like that, and they should double in group numbers and in other small roles.

By the way, someone will need to do a good Ed Sullivan vocal imitation. We don’t see Ed, but we hear him. Could be prerecorded.

SETS:

There are a number of settings called for by the show, but strangely enough, the show isn’t that hard to do in terms of sets. First, let’s break it down for a proscenium stage, without a unit set.

If you have a proscenium stage, play the first scene, Almalou, in front of the main drape, on the apron, with just a desk and phone to one side. (You might give Albert a piano, as he’s a songwriter. But it isn’t a must.) After that, open the drape. We see the big box, floor to ceiling, filled with compartments with kids in it. (Or perhaps place the kids all over the house of the theatre, each with phone in hand. Be fun for a Dinner Theatre, say.) Then, two train stations, perhaps a single sign that gets reversed, played at the front of the stage in front of a set or backdrop perhaps midway, behind the box of kids that gets rolled or flown off. The train station can be established perhaps with a cut away or two.

The first real set, then, could be the MacAfee house. We only see a living room, a staircase going upstairs. (Or not, it could be one story. Just change MacAfee’s line to “Go to your room”, from “Go upstairs.”)

Close the main drape and play the backstage at the Sullivan show scene on the apron. This pushes the end of act action into the audience’s lap. Put some objects on the apron to indicate we’re backstage, even a stage manager with head set.

Act II starts at the MacAfee’s, again. Then, a street (can be indicated by a streetlamp, rolled on and off, perhaps on the apron.) Then the Roadside Cafe, a bar with a back room. This set should have been placed probably in front of the MacAfee’s. The bar will use as dance space the whole stage. But it would be good if men climb on the bar, etc., during the “ballet.” It can be a bar that’s rolled on, some stools, a phone. Then, the train station again, on the apron.

So, what do we need? Albert’s office, train stations, the MacAfee living room (the show’s main set, must reek of Middle-America 1958 or so), backstage at the Sullivan show (represented by drapes and stuff you’d find backstage), a street, and Maude’s Cafe. That’s a light set plot for a Broadway Musical Comedy. The plan above allows for almost instant, or hidden, changes.

On a unit set, or an open stage, try this:

The office, represented by a desk, perhaps a sign on the desk announcing it as the President of the Company’s. Roll it off as you start “Telephone Hour”, using the whole theater. Roll on a sign for a train station, and a few small set pieces, and reverse the sign for Sweet Apple. The body of the set should be the MacAfee’s house, and you’d light it now. Bring on a couch if it isn’t there, a table. For the TV show, kill all the lights except on the action, pushed toward the front of the stage. Act II, the house again, drop the lights to a streetlight for the street, roll that off and roll the bar on, with stools, or just bring on the stools and mime the bar if you must. You may well need a bar and tables and chairs for the ballet, maybe even a podium. Have the actors bring these all on and off. Back to the house. Then a sign toward the front and limited lighting for the last scene, the train station.

What will you need to build? The MacAfee house, and if it’s one story, that will not be too hard. But really consider architecture and design for Middle American suburbia in the late 50s, the house’s design could get some good laughs if done well. You may need to build a train platform or something simple and raised for the stations. You may need a roll-on bar and even a backdrop for the bar, self contained to that set, with bottles painted on. And that’s really it. Not terribly expensive, not very hard.

COSTUMES:

MUST be in-period, and fun, and bright Musical Comedy costuming.

The teen girls wear all the silly stuff teen-age fans of rock stars wore in the late 50s, including poodle skirts and stuff like that. (Kim should look just a little sexier than all that.)

Teen boys wear jeans or slacks, and effect looks seen in various films of the time, or are clean-cut with button shirts. And remember, your teens have high energy dancing and singing to do, make sure their costumes allow for that.

Albert is in a big city suit and tie, but cheap, as is his accountant, though that man has removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. He must be able to move easily in his clothes. MacAfee is in a small city suit and tie, more rural, same for the mayor of Sweet Apple and the guys at the bar.

Mrs. M. is in a typical housewife dress for the period and place. Kim’s brother is dressed like an all-American boy of the time, and is clean-cut.

Rosie is wearing dresses with skirts that show off some of her lovely figure, we must think Albert a bit of an idiot for not being with her. But her clothes, though a bit stylish, must fit the period. She must be able top move easily in her clothes.

Conrad is a star. Study all of Elvis’ various looks in the 50s, and borrow from the most flamboyant. The character is often dressed in shiny material, like a lame jump suit. I think something closer to Elvis’ look would be better. But he must shine, sparkle, crackle. Later, he can wear a tough-guy-look tee shirt, as he goes out on the town to “live.”

Fezzes for the Shriners.

Mae is the ultimate shlump in some ways. She should wear her life on her back, as if afraid to lose anything valuable. Perhaps a fur or three, and strings of pearls – her fortune is portable, wherever her sonny boy needs her to be. Comfortable shoes, her feet swell. A comic image of a survivor who does not trust the world at all.

Most of what you’ll need may be found in people’s closets, thrift stores, used clothing stores, and if you must, costume shops. This is not a hard show to costume.

PROPS:

Conrad needs a guitar. Albert’s ledgers for his business. An adding machine, circa 1955. Suitcases and bags for the various people taking trains. Fan Club paraphernalia, such as pompoms, signs, buttons. Many hand-held land line phones (just the line and the headset part), one for each kid in “The Telephone Hour.” Land line for Albert’s desk, simple and complete. Drinks for the men at the bar. These are sometimes specialized props, but this show is not particularly torturous for props.

LIGHTING:

Keep things bright, fun, very visible. Make the stage pop for big numbers. Light Conrad in a spot whenever he sings. The “ballet”, if you do it, could be dark, mysterious, smokey. The bar can be romantically lit for “Baby, Talk To Me”. There are likely to be a lot of cues and looks.

Lighting may need to define some of the spaces. Albert’s office might be flat in color, white, interior. The backstage at the Sullivan show look might be a work light, spill from on stage, back stage gelled lamps, that sort of true-to-life lighting.

MAKE-UP:

Keep it simple, clean, unobtrusive. Perhaps a few female fans of Birdie write on their foreheads, or something like that. But keep it simple.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Choreographer, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Costume Designer, Albert, Birdie, Rosie, Mae, MacAfee, Kim must all be quite strong.

MY THOUGHTS:

I’m so glad I got to do this show when I was young! I played Albert, and helped musical direct and choreograph the show in High School, and it was a blast. The script still amuses me when I read it, it is quite entertaining. The score is top drawer. It is not an expensive show, compared to many larger Musicals. The cast can be contained in size somewhat, sets are few and inexpensive, costuming also not very hard or expensive to execute. Even the orchestra could be seriously reduced in size and still work well. This is a producible show – for now. I’m not sure how much longer that will be the case.

Today, if your theater company needs a show that skews young for cast, and old for audience, this could well be the perfect pick. An audience that can invest their own nostalgia into the proceedings may enjoy this show the most. It is possible this show will survive a demise of interest in the 50s and early 60s, it’s a clever show. Time will tell. Ask me again around 2020.

If you’re wondering, that famous opening title song in the film, with Anne Margaret prancing about like a nymphet on steroids, is not in the stage musical. More’s the shame.