‘Bye Bye Birdie’ runs at Sonoma Valley High through Feb. 5

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SVHS presents “Bye Bye Birdie”

When: Jan. 27, 28, and Feb. 3, 4 at 7 p.m., and Jan. 29 and Feb. 5 at 2 p.m.

Where: Sonoma Valley High School Little Theater, 20000 Broadway

Directed by: Janet Martin, with Janine Duma.

The team: Scenic artist Deanna Nichols, costume designer Rene Rodriguez, poster design by Hannah Sendaydiego, stage manager Wyatt Lage and program design by Wyatt Lage.

How much: $10 for adults, $5 for children. Tickets available at the theater box office, and in advance at Readers Books, Pharmaca and at SVHS.

On a rainy Friday afternoon, following a long week of after-school practices, the cast of Sonoma Valley High School’s “Bye Bye Birdie” has been given the day off from further rehearsal. But instead of going home, several of them have gathered in the still-damp courtyard of Peet’s Coffee, taking advantage of a short window of sunlight to enjoy each other’s company, sans the singing and dancing they’ll finally be showing off beginning this weekend.

Out of a cast of 35, about a dozen students are present, huddled around a table, warm drinks in hand, back-packs in their laps to keep them off the wet concrete floor.

“When we’re all together somewhere,” says Lauren Smith, who plays the parts of teenager Nancy and Mama Mae Peterson, “we more-or-less take over the place.”

“We’re kind of a mob, but we’re a happy mob,” agrees Earnest Moore, who doubles in the show as 10-year-old Randolph McAfee and teenager Carl.

A happy mob.

Sounds appropriate for a show about what happens when the teenagers of Sweet Apple, Ohio descend into hysteria after a local girl, 14-year-old Kim MacAfee, is randomly chosen to be publicly kissed by a famous rock-and-roller, Conrad Birdie (Noah Bartolome), on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

In the Tony-winning 1960 show by Michael Stewart, Lee Adams and Charles Strouse, the self-obsessed Birdie has been drafted into the Army. The planned “goodbye kiss” is part of a publicity stunt dreamed up by the singer’s manager, Albert (Cian Martin, alternating with Dominic Bongiavanni) and his secretary Rosie (played alternately by Hannah Sendaydiego and Hannah Ford Monroe).

In the show, all does not run smoothly when Birdie finally arrives, complicated by the fact that Kim’s boyfriend Hugo (Max Houghton and Nick Atwood) is jealous of the visiting rock star, and by the fact that every time Birdie sings, the teenage girls all faint.

According to the group gathered here today, the fainting scenes are hysterical.

Along with the aforementioned Smith, Monroe, and Moore, the Peet’s group consists of Nick Atwood (playing Hugo), Jackson Zyskowski (Harvey Johnson and Randolph), Claire McNairy (Alice and ensemble), Annie Robichaud (Nancy and Mrs. Peterson), and Ivy McNeil Blackwood, who, when asked to name her part in the play, replies with a smile, “My official script name is Sad Girl.”

Asked if any of them has ever seen the stage version of “Bye Bye Birdie” before being cast in it, the majority of the students here say no – with one exception.

“I actually did the musical at Presentation [School],” says Atwood. “I played Ed Sullivan, funny enough.”

“He’s really good at doing Ed Sullivan,” says McNary. “Do a little bit, Nick!”

“OK,” Atwood says, adopting a somewhat Sullivan-ish posture. “’As you know,’” he begins, “’in just 14 hours, one of show business’s brightest stars is going off to play a very special engagement with the U.S. Army!’”

His performance is met with applause and cheers.

“These shows are so fun because we get to work together on something,” says Monroe, “and even if we’re not sure what’s happening at first, something good always blossoms.”

Moore explains that at SVHS, the shows are traditionally double-cast, with most of the actors alternating between a major role one night and a supporting or ensemble role the next.

SVHS presents “Bye Bye Birdie”

When: Jan. 27, 28, and Feb. 3, 4 at 7 p.m., and Jan. 29 and Feb. 5 at 2 p.m.

Where: Sonoma Valley High School Little Theater, 20000 Broadway

Directed by: Janet Martin, with Janine Duma.

The team: Scenic artist Deanna Nichols, costume designer Rene Rodriguez, poster design by Hannah Sendaydiego, stage manager Wyatt Lage and program design by Wyatt Lage.

How much: $10 for adults, $5 for children. Tickets available at the theater box office, and in advance at Readers Books, Pharmaca and at SVHS.

Says Moore, “You feel like you are doing more this way.”

Suddenly, three new performers appear – Delia Rogers, who plays the pivotal Kim MacAfee (alternating with Mia Benstead), Taylor Curtis (Gloria Rasputin, alternating with Maggie Luque), and Ivy O’Donnell (Ursula Merkel alternating with Aliya Cashel).

Asked what dance sequence the cast and crew have had the most fun putting together has been, they all exclaim, in one exuberant voice, “Telephone Hour!”

That tune, considered by many to be the show’s most exuberant song-and-dance number, features the teenagers of the town playing a massive literal game of “telephone,” passing the news from student to student that Kim McAlister is officially “going steady” with repetitions of the phrase “What’s the story, morning glory? What’s the tale, nightingale?”

“We’ve literally been working on it since the first day of rehearsals,” adds Robichaud. “When it was decided that ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ was going to be the show, doing “Telephone Hour” was the first thing we all got excited about.”

Several cast members point out that anyone who’s considering attending a performance – and who’s seen the 1963 Dick Van Dyke-Janet Leigh version - should know that the movie is much different from the stage play.

“When 'Bye Bye Birdie' was first brought up,” says Smith, “I’d only seen the movie. And, based on that, I absolutely did not want to do this play. But as we’ve been rehearsing it, I’ve absolutely been falling in love with this play. It’s such a wonderful musical. I’m actually enjoying it, which was not my experience of the movie.”

“The story is pretty relatable,” agrees Blackwood.

“As a fangirl myself, screaming for Conrad Birdie is pretty easy for me,” laughs McNairy. “I feel like everybody has that person, an actor or a singer, that they just go crazy about – someone who, if they actually saw them in person, they wouldn’t know what to do.”

“It’s so fun to be given permission to just kind of freak out and scream,” adds Smith, “'Bye Bye Birdie” lets us do that.”

Email David at david.templeton@sonomanews.com.

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