Brewery Arts musical mixes fun with ’50s history
For the Nevada Appeal
“Bye, Bye Birdie,” hits the stage with energy, favorite songs and dance April 8 at Brewery Arts Center.
Presented by The BAC Stage Kids, “Bye, Bye Birdie,” is a long-favorite satire on Amer-ican society. Set in 1958, it tells a story, reportedly inspired by Elvis’ recruitment into the Army in 1957, of a rock ‘n’ roll singer who is about to be inducted into the army.
The musical features classic songs such as “What Did I Ever See in Him,” “Spanish Rose,” “Kids,” and “Put on a Happy Face.”
Directing the cast of 35 children, ages 7-16 posed lessons in history.
“We had to explain to them how those times were different from now,” said director and choreographer Hal DeBiel. “When we started on this project, we knew we wanted to keep it as true to the original as possible, which meant explaining that in 1958 there was this thing called a busy signal and that sometimes calls wouldn’t go through because the phone lines were jammed or that there weren’t skinny jeans, there were just jeans and you wore them around your waist, not on your hips.
“And they would look at us like they were listening intently, but you could tell they weren’t really getting it so they shrugged it off with a ‘well, whatever,’ and we went from there.”
The learning process includes underscoring that home life – chores and family – and school work, take precedence over being in a production.
We tell them that the show is never an excuse for not getting their work done and that they have to figure out how to do this in addition to what’s already going on,” he said. “That’s real life and how grown-ups make decisions. When you take on more, you have to fit it in while not losing track of other commitments.
“I’m glad to be a part of that.”
The children are also asked leading questions, such as “how does your character fit into the story and why are you there?” or “how does your character feel,” in order to stretch their understanding of why they are doing what they’re doing, DeBiel said.
It’s always gratifying when you see the little light bulbs go on and their eyes light up … that’s why we do this.”
DeBiel has worked with many of the returning children on other BAC Stage Kids productions and during summer camp, but also has many first-time performers.
Kids are always fun to work with and we do have a wonderful cast,” he said. “I really enjoy how so many of the older kids are willing to listen to and learn from the younger ones, and it’s the younger kids who are actually making sure the older ones make their entrances on time and from the (correct) side of the stage, so that’s been interesting.”
Seeing how each child’s ability to develop from one production or program to the next and how they learn to become a character and, in the case of “Bye, Bye Birdie,” to also sing and dance, is for DeBiel “a thrill.”
“They are all becoming triple threats,” he said.
A live band comprised of area school music students, will accompany the performers.
Bri Valley, who is the show’s music director put out a call to local music teachers and is conducting the band. Susanne Remmington is the show’s costume designer.
“This is a smaller production staff, which is easier in some ways,” DeBiel said. “For instance, by wearing my two hats, there’s a seamless vision that I have in my head for how I want the show directed and where the dance comes in. I don’t have to try to get someone else to see what I’m seeing. And also, when the kids are in for a rehearsal, we can then run through a couple of the dance numbers at the same time and it’s nice to have that flexibility.”
For an evening of award-winning music and good old-fashion fun, “Bye, Bye Birdie” is not to be missed.
Performances are 7 p.m. April 8, 9, 15 and 16. Matinees are 2 p.m. April 9, 10, 16 and 17.
Tickets are on sale now and cost $9 for general admission and $6 for BAC members, students and seniors, available at breweryarts.org. Brewery Arts Center is located at 449 W. King St., Carson City. For details, call 775-883-1976 or