Theater Review: “Bye Bye Birdie” at the Fremont Centre Theatre

: Kurt Koehler (l.), Tara Cox, Aidan Martin, Eadan Franklynn. Photo by Jack J Bennett.

: Kurt Koehler (l.), Tara Cox, Aidan Martin, Eadan Franklynn. Photo by Jack J Bennett.

I attended the exciting and high-spirited opening night of the popular ’60s musical “Bye Bye Birdie” Friday night. This production was presented by Young Stars Theatre, a resident company of the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena, which is one of my favorite venues in SoCal to see a play. This engaging, charming and family-friendly production is brought to you by the likable and talented husband and wife team of Gloria and Jack J. Bennett. Jack directs, Gloria is the producer/musical director, and Mirai Booth-Ong is the choreographer, while also performing a key role in the play.

The production consists of two casts — the Rock cast, with both kids and adults, and the Roll cast which is all children — a very cool idea. Opening night was a smash with the Rock cast, which features Kurt Koehler as Albert Peterson, Tara Cox as Rose Alvarez, Clara Daly as Kim MacAfee, Liam Walker as Hugo Peabody, Matthew Golden as Conrad Birdie, Stacy Toyon as Mae Peterson, Tony Pritchard as Mr. MacAfee, Miria Booth-Ong as Mrs. MacAfee, Sophia Kavcioglu as Ursula Merkle and Mrs. Merkle, Shaina Hammer as Maude’s customer, Stephanie Harvey as Gloria Rasputin and Maude, Levi Srebalus as Harvey Johnson, Gabriel Bomfiglio as Freddie, Jaaziah McZeal as Karl, Elliot Scott as Mayor and Mr. Johnson, Jasmine M-E as Mayor’s wife and Lee, Meera Sinroja as Phyllis, Cadence Cole as Deborah Sue, Eadan Franklynn as Margie, Idalis McZeal as Helen, Melody Cole as Nancy, Christina Amber as Alice and Ryan Baumann as Penelope.

This charming production features lots of great musical numbers, which propelled the play to great success when it first came out. Some of the fun familiar Charles Strouse-Lee Adams tunes are “An English Teacher,” “Telephone Hour,” “How Lovely to Be a Woman,” “Put On a Happy Face,” “Healthy Normal American Boy,” “One Boy,” “Honestly Sincere,” “One Last Kiss,” “What Did I Ever See in Him,” “A`Lot of Livin’ to Do,” “Kids,” “Baby Talk to Me,” “Spanish Rose” and “Rosie.” This fun, feel-good production plays til October 23.  For more information, visit the theater’s website.

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