Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bidding Bye Bye to "Birdie"

Posted by Bruce Miller

I was sad to be out of town (or otherwise engaged) during the recent run of Bye Bye Birdie at Dogwood Dell. The original "rock ‘n’ roll musical" was performed six times from August 3 until 11 as the grand finale in the Dell’s 51st annual Festival of the Arts, produced by Richmond’s Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. From all reports, it was a huge success, attracting, I’ve been told, the largest Dell crowds in a decade.

Bye Bye Birdie won the Best Musical Tony in 1961, and put Charles Strouse on the road to earn the Broadway legend status he enjoys today. Charles has quite a few Richmond connections, and that’s one reason I really wanted to see Birdie. But more about that in a future blog entry.

The main reason I wanted to see Birdie was to enjoy the work of all of my friends who were involved in the production.

The show was directed by Tony Sharpenstein, a fine fellow who co-starred in a production of The Prince and the Pauper that I directed years ago at Theatre IV—a production I remember fondly. It would have been my first time seeing Tony’s work as a director, so I’m really sorry that my schedule didn't allow me to attend.

I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know who choreographed, music directed and/or designed Bye Bye Birdie. The press releases that I can find on line simply don't list that information. If someone wants to leave me that info in a comment, I’d appreciate it.

Among Birdie's adult cast, Robert Fuhrman is an alum of Barksdale’s Where’s Charley?, David Janosik appeared as a child in Theatre IV’s Charley and the Chocolate Factory, Dee Lynch co-starred in Theatre IV’s production of Cowgirls and music directed Barksdale’s productions of The Full Monty and Anything Goes, and Terri Moore was wonderful in that same production of The Prince and the Pauper that I mentioned earlier.

Among the young people in the Birdie cast, Charlie Dacus recently dazzled me with his backbends in Theatre IV’s The Wizard of Oz; Ryan Lynch, Hannah Martin and Liz Van’t Reit were a joy to direct in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (also at Theatre IV); and Sarah Pruden, Robert Watkins and Chris Withers simply knocked my socks off in last summer’s Greater Richmond High School All Star Musical, Grease, co-produced by Barksdale Theatre and The Steward School.

I'm told that Robbie Fuhrman and Sarah Pruden were terrific as the leads in Birdie, playing Albert Peterson and Kim McAfee, respectively, so I’m especially sorry to have missed their performances.

Anyway, I’m proud of all our Theatre IV and Barksdale veterans, and look forward to the next time when I’ll be able to catch them on stage. If Birdie was half as good as friends told me it was, you all did a GREAT job.

--Bruce Miller


Anonymous said...

"Ciao Ciao Birdie"? How cool is that? They even made Ann-Margaret look like Charo. Where do you find these wild illustrations? I know it's probably Google Images. Still, they're cool.

mmmhawke said...

Tony Sharpenstein also choreographed the show. It was excellent, had a fantastic set, and judging from the largest crowd I have ever seen at Dogwood Dell on closing night, it was enthusiastically received. Sorry you did not get to see it.

Michael Hawke

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your posts. As Michael noted above, I choreographed the show as well following in the footsteps of the greats..Amy Perdue, Robin Arthur and Kay Strong. :-) The musical director was Shirley Townsend and Frank Foster designed the set and everyone's favorite, Joe Doran, designed the lights. Oh, and Maura Cravey did the costumes. Thank you.

Bruce Miller said...

Great to hear from you Tony. And congratulations on a job so well done. I really am sorry I didn't get to see it.

All the Best,