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Talent Takes the Stage in ECS Production of “Bye Bye Birdie”

By Jesse Mast

Shrill cheers from starstruck teenagers pierced through the auditorium, as the slick haired object of their adulation sang, “Give me one last kiss!”

The newest rising teen star?  No.  It was the Ellicottville Central School Drama Club performing the musical “Bye Bye Birdie” last weekend.

The ECS Drama Club took the stage Friday and Saturday at Salamanca Central School.  With hilarious dialogue, skillful choreography and catchy songs accompanied by an 18-piece orchestra, the show was a fine display of the talents of the ECS students.

Set in the late 1950s , “Bye Bye Birdie” is a satire of American culture in which rock star Conrad Birdie makes plans to give a farewell kiss to one of his teenaged fans before joining the army.  The lucky girl is Kim MacAfee, who is infatuated with Conrad, to the chagrin of her boyfriend.  Meanwhile Albert Peterson, Conrad’s manager, and his girlfriend Rose Alvarez have relational troubles of their own, provoked by Albert’s interfering mother.

Quinn O’Rourke played the part of Conrad, comfortably bringing the character to life with a mixture of charm and arrogance.  Calum Watt and Breanna Coolidge comprised the duo of Albert and Rose—Watt provided light humor as the manager for whom nothing went right, while Coolidge complemented him as his slightly more dramatic secretary.

Coolidge exercised a commanding stage presence, especially in a few long dance sequences.  The most memorable of these were a farcical ballet depicting Rose’s imagined revenge on Albert, and an over-the-top scene in which she disrupts a Shriners meeting.  The latter drew several rounds of laughs and cheers from the audience.

The cast did a good job portraying the various conflicts between characters.  One notable example was Albert’s relationship with his mother Mae, played convincingly by Olivia Venezia and arguably one of the best-developed characters in the show.  Mae is meant to be played for laughs, and Venezia earned them well, skillfully remaining in character as she ordered Albert around.  One of the biggest highlights of the show was the final confrontation between Albert and Mae, evoking roars of laughter from the enthusiastic audience.

Other roles included Elizabeth Wendel as Kim MacAfee,  and Tanner Gregory and  Ciara Peters as Harry and Doris MacAfee.  Wendel played a believable love-struck 15-year-old, with Peters providing support as her caring but confused mother.  Gregory rounded out the MacAfee family with his apt portrayal of a father trying in vain to maintain control over his chaotic household.

To top it off, the various intertwined plots were punctuated by shrieks from a chorus of excited girls as they sang out their love for their conceited idol.

Altogether, “Bye Bye Birdie” was a hit.  The students at ECS and everyone involved in the production may be proud of a job well done.

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