By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Conrad Birdie has been drafted and is about to enter the U.S. Army. The teen singing superstar has one last chance to bid farewell to his faithful fans before he leaves.
That, according to the musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” is reason enough for a small Ohio town to go wild with crazed female fans who want to catch a glimpse.
“Bye Bye Birdie” will be presented at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School March 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. at the school gym.
The popular musical is set in 1958 and brings singing star Birdie to Sweet Apple, Ohio, for one last publicity appearance before he heads off to serve in the Army.
Hood students are taking to the stage, bringing screaming teen fans and the show’s songs to life, including “Put on A Happy Face,” and “A Lot of Livin’ to Do.”
Working behind the scenes for many years is the parent/volunteer group the Keynotes, helping with costumes, publicity and fundraising to help get the show on the stage.
That’s a long tradition at Hood, according to Keynotes president Heather Spellman.
“And a lot to live up to,” she said.
Spellman has worked with Keynotes for four years and also has a child performing in “Birdie.”
“All parents chip in at one point or another,” she said.
Some show challenges this season including finding vintage-style rotary telephones to use in the opening scene of the show, where teen girls are chatting on the phone about their love lives and other issues of the day.
Spellman said it was fun to see the middle school students dealing with the “old” phones and how they might have actually worked.
The thought of “going steady” back in the 1950s was also another archaic thought.
“They just had no idea,” Spellman said.
There are about 45 to 50 students participating in “Bye Bye Birdie” and they are all having a lot of fun wearing the poodle skirts and learning some twisting dance moves as Conrad Birdie makes his appearance in town.
The Birdie character is partially based on an Elvis-style performer, Spellman said, but she also wanted to outfit seventh-grader Hunter Rathburn with a touch of actor James Dean as well.
Pinkerton Academy graduate John Rodgers is also at the helm, supporting students and helping them learn all about performing. He is a veteran Kids Coop Theatre member and has performed in productions of “Bye Bye Birdie” in the past.
Keynotes member Stephanie Laskiewicz said the group is major force behind Hood shows and she is happy to be part of the production. Her daughter Zoey plays the part of Mrs. MacAfee in the show.
“It’s crucial,” she said. “These things never would happen without the Keynotes. We’re all kind of connected.”
Tickets for “Bye Bye Birdie” are $8 and available by calling 432-1224 or visiting Keynotes at hoodkeynotes.blogspot.com.