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Queens Chronicle

‘Bye Bye Birdie’ takes flight in Douglaston

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Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:45 pm, Thu Aug 1, 2019.

Outside, the temperature was stifling as Broadway Blockbuster Productions presented its opening night performance last Friday of the musical comedy, “Bye Bye Birdie,” at The Theatre at The Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, where it runs through July 27.

Inside, more than three dozen young and highly-charged performers did some sizzling all their own.

But have no fear — the air-conditioning provided a comfortable, even chilly, environment in which to enjoy a summertime diversion.

This classic work, which first took Broadway by storm nearly six decades ago, tells, among others, the tale of Conrad Birdie, a popular young rock ‘n’ roll singer, said to be modeled after the era’s superstar, Elvis Presley, who has been drafted into the army, and the teenaged fan who is selected to give him a farewell kiss on national television. His imminent departure leaves his teenybopper-followers understandably distraught.

Equally upset is his manager, Albert, who also has problems on two other fronts: ne has to do with his shaky relationship with his long-time secretary, Rosie, who wants to become his long-time wife; the other involves his domineering mother, Mae, who spouts slurs of increasing intensity aimed at Rosie’s Spanish background.

While it remains very much of its time, the show, filled with catchy tunes by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams and some snappy dialogue courtesy of Michael Stewart, is entertaining from start to finish.

The current rendering, under the direction of Andrew Joseph Koslosky, keeps things moving apace, taking advantage of multiple playing areas on the large stage.

Music director Patrick White oversees a crackerjack band, and Tara Mangione has provided energetic dances which the cast delivers with ease.

About that cast ... it’s large, enthusiastic and brimming with talent. And every last performer on that stage can really sing, making the ensemble numbers a particular delight.

As Albert, Paul Inglese not only sings well, but dances and acts with equal aplomb, combining all three skills in the show’s most famous song, “Put On a Happy Face.” His Rosie, Jessica Lausell, has a strong set of pipes which she displays in half a dozen numbers, most effectively in “Spanish Rose,” in which she mocks the character’s own ethnicity.

Rosario Amico has all the right moves, not to mention the vocal chops, for the hip-swiveling Birdie, while Melanie Henderson brings a sweet singing voice to the role of Kim, the fan who was selected to receive a parting kiss from him.

Richard Masin offers an original spin on Harry MacAfee, Kim’s put-upon father, a role forever linked with the late comic actor, Paul Lynde. While Lynde’s patented delivery style occasionally surfaces, perhaps as an homage to the role’s creator, Masin takes a more powerful, less sympathetic, approach. He offers a particularly satisfying rendition of “Kids,” in which he expresses dismay over the younger generation.

Sophy Rodriguez, though a contemporary of many of her fellow actors, creates a believable portrayal of the matronly Mae, offering a comedic musical highlight in her big second-act solo.

Giancarlo Cascarino makes the most of Hugo Peabody, Kim’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, while Marco Vittozzi is a delightfully nerdy Harvey Johnson. Giovanni Vittozzi has television host Ed Sullivan’s awkward body stance down pat.

Even on opening night, the show was in fine technical shape (kudos to Tim Morgenstern). A team of set designers provided some simple but totally apropos recreations of times gone by, as well as one movable piece that proves a most pleasant surprise. Costume designer Francine Morgenstern filled the stage with poodle skirts and a wide array of other styles of the period.

‘Bye Bye Birdie’
When: Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m. Jul. 25-26; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m. Jul. 27; 5 p.m. dinner option.
Where: Immaculate Conception Center, 7200 Douglaston Pkwy.
Entry: $40 VIP, $25 general admission, $30 extra for dinner.
(347) 556-3325 or thejosephnefoundation.org

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