04
Dec
12

Bye Bye Birdie

 

bye-bye-birdie

 

Bye Bye Birdie

Harvest Rain Theatre Company

Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse

29th November – 9th December

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

 

I’ve seen a number of productions by the gang at Harvest Rain Theatre Company. One thing I love about them is their consistency to recreate classics with a youthful and energetic pulse. Bye Bye Birdie is no exception.  It was first performed on Broadway in 1960 so this show is not new. In fact I could guess many of the audience were already well attuned to the plot. Though camp and colourful, Bye Bye Birdie is or at least as originally a satire. Set in 1958 the story is remodelled off Elvis Presley. When rock n’ roll was a dangerous thing in a small town.

Rock and roll takes on a form in this era not as most of us are used to. Sorry Metallica, not tonight. KISS, you’re out too I’m afraid. In Bye Bye Birdie rock n’ roll is all about bright colours, slicked back hair and poodle skirts. The vivid costumes against the black floor of the Visy Theatre grab your attention as the cast sing and dance.

Retro is an understatement. But it is the only word I can give you before you walk into the Visy Theatre. I’m biased; I love the Powerhouse and all its individual charms. The Visy is smaller than average, two hundred seats max, so make sure you grab your ticket. It’s almost like an arena stage. The acoustics are fantastic along with whatever play is taking place on its floors at the time.

I guess the one flaw was not in the play but in me. Danny Lazar as Conrad Birdie delivered each song and made every girl in the room swoon.  Lauren Heidecker as Kim MacAffee had the kind of adorable stage presence that warms your heart whilst Morgan Kempster as her friend Ursula Merkle was easily pegged as comic relief.

But despite these wonderful performances the play wasn’t in my tastes I suppose is the way to put it. I’ve seen the retro musical done before. I’ve seen productions of Hairspray, Shout! and Charlie Brown (the latter another Harvest Rain production). To me they’re not the same but they’re all in the same vein. When I go to the theatre I’m looking for something different. Something to send a whole new thought-wave down my spine and through my fingers and sparking behind my eyes. Something, dare I be cliché? Challenging. Bye Bye Birdie is of a satirical nature but it’s from another time an another place far from the lands of Me. It is a classic – “good, clean, fun” – but it didn’t stir anything in me.

This is not to say it won’t stir anything in you. It certainly brought out laughter. Bye Bye Birdie brings out a reminiscence of old songs we’d nearly forgotten. Harvest Rain Theatre certainly has a reputation for reviving the classics. Most of their 2013 season will be old but not forgotten musicals. This year alone they put on some stunners; their performance of Hairspray was not one to be missed.  Now the team has done it again with this production of Bye Bye Birdie.

These guys may have young faces but they’re not unfamiliar with what they’re doing. Harvest Rain Theatre churns out musicals and I have no doubt will continue to put on some great classic shows. Like I said, their 2013 season is a great line-up. Get your tickets and make your way to the Brisbane Powerhouse for Bye Bye Birdie now before it’s too late and the busy Christmas season storms in.

 

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