July 31, 2012 By Pat Dorfman
“Bye Bye Birdie,” a Unity Stage Company production that is set in 1958, finished its four-day run Sunday night at Sunnyside’s Queen of Angels Auditorium, after inclement weather forced a hurried move from the courtyard of All Saints Church.
The performances had no shortage of audience members despite a rain storm on opening night. The crowd on Sunday laughed and hooted appreciatively throughout the performance and gave a standing ovation during final bows.
“Put on a Happy Face” and “Kids” (“What’s the matter with kids today?”) were among the hits sung and danced by a full company of energetic actors. The cast included many Sunnyside and Woodside children.
The story features Conrad Birdie, a callow seducer and Elvis Presley-type idol, visiting a small town as a publicity stunt on his way into the armed forces.
The swooning teens and irritated adults form the backdrop for the more prominent tale of the long-suffering secretary/fiancée of the idol’s manager. She chafes at the manager’s long overdue wedding proposal and his ties to his diabolically domineering mother. The performance of Erin Rubico as the secretary, particularly her dancing in “Spanish Rose,” was a standout.
Director/choreographer Andrew Haserlat excelled with witty touches. The show moved along surprisingly briskly, and featured a raucous live band and fast-moving sets made of rolling risers. Haserlat, Musical Director Mitchell Raftery, Sound Engineer Craig Ryan Freeman, and Stage Manager Craig Rosenthal created a smoother and more professional show than one would expect in a local auditorium.
The production was an Equity Showcase, which means as low-cost production, there were certain legal restrictions to protect the actors. But Unity Stage Company Executive Director and show producer Sofia Landon Geier, who oversaw the production from the beginning, managed to make a little go a long way.
Dorothy Morehead, Sunnyside real estate broker, who notes she attends Broadway and regional theater several times a year, said, “I loved it. That was really terrific.”