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Beale Street Theater brings to life nostalgia for the ‘50s through its production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’

Beale Street Theater is putting on the production of "Bye Bye Birdie." The crew is under the direction of Matt Hecht. (Photo by Vanessa Espinoza/Daily Miner)

Beale Street Theater is putting on the production of "Bye Bye Birdie." The crew is under the direction of Matt Hecht. (Photo by Vanessa Espinoza/Daily Miner)

The play is a reflection of Elvis Presley when he left for the Army and left behind a lot of adoring fans with broken hearts.

The “Bye Bye Birdie” crew is under the direction of Matt Hecht. The musical comedy is based on the book by Michael Stewart with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Lee Adams and originally produced by Edward Padula.

Cast and crew has been working on the musical for about six weeks. Hecht finds it unnerving when it comes to casting, but he lucked out with his current cast.

“Difficulty is casting it, but we lucked out and got a great cast, and it’s a lot of work to put it together but it's been real fun,” he said.

His cast is composed of 40 people, 15 orchestra members, and over a dozen in support staff. The orchestra is under the conduction of Tyler Griesbach. Hecht said he is great and giving great cues to the cast.

“He is conducting just like Mickey Mouse conducted the waves in Fantasia,” Hecht said.

Kim MacAfee is played by Marian Esplin. While playing her character she has learned a few things like memorizing lines, but she’s learned something more.

“(I learned) about what it means to grow up and what it means to choose over something you’ve dreamt about and someone you love,” Esplin said.

She did find it a bit difficult to separate herself from her character because there were times when she and Kim were similar in personality.

Heartthrob sensation Conrad Birdie is played by Chris Commisso. Chris himself is a singer so the singing scenes came natural.

“I’m a singer before an actor so that came a little more natural. I love to do all the stuff where we get to sing,” Commisso said.

He can related to Conrad when it comes to singing, but on a personal level they are different.

“Some of the stuff he does is very out of my character. So I had to get in that mindset why would somebody do this, so I gave him a little back story in my head to why he is damaged and treat people the way he does,” he said.

The musical follows two story lines. The first story line is about Kim having the opportunity to kiss Conrad, with her steady not being so fond about the idea. The other has to do with Rosie Alvarez, played by Andy Ballstadt, and Albert Peterson, played by Geoff Cornelson. Rosie is Albert’s secretary and Albert is Conrad’s manager, they both have bene dating for some time, but Rosie wants something more.

“Bye Bye Birdie” opened on Broadway in 1960 and played for 607 performances at the Martin Beck Theatre starring Chita Rivera and Dick Van Dyke. The musical won four Tony Awards for musical, director, choreography and featured actor in 1961. Now local community members are putting on the production.

The theater is putting on the performance for two weekends. Kristina Michelson, theater executive director, said it’s an opportunity for the community to come out and see.

“The two weekends helps us offer it because people are out of town and they’ll miss the show, so they get the opportunity to see it,” she said.

She also added the ticket sales will help with the renovation project of Beale Street Theater.

Community members who lived in the era of hot rods, poodle skirts and Elvis Presley will get a kick out of the musical.

“We love our Americana, our nostalgic ‘50s-‘60s, poodle skirts and this show fits great for that,” Hecht said. “I hope it really resonates with the town and the people that enjoyed those times.”

Performance times are 7 - 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 14; Saturday, June 15; Thursday, June 20; Friday, June 21 and Saturday, June 22. Matinees are at 1 - 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 15 and June 22 at Kingman High School, 4182 Bank St.

Tickets for adults are $12, $5 for children ages 4-11. Tickets can be purchased at www.bealestreettheater.com, at the Kingman Center for the Arts Gallery, 208 Beale St., or at the door.

Video created by Vanessa Espinoza/Daily Miner

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