Monday, July 16, 2012


Anita Gilette (30 Rock, Moonstruck) positively devours the role of the overpowering smother-mother in Reagle Music Theatre’s delightful BYE BYE BIRDIE (playing through July 22nd). She’ll save her son (Jacob Sherburne) from the stunning Rosie Alvarez (Carman Napier) if it’s the last thing she does. She’ll lie across railroad tracks, stuff her head in an oven (big enough to fit all of her!) and throw herself out with the trash to attract his attention. In other words, the show is hers.

No. Wait a minute. That would be the case if it were not for Carman Napier in the sizzling role of Rose, mother’s lovely nemesis. Napier just graduated from Boston Conservatory and is on her way to NYC…and a surefire career judging from the Broadway caliber performance she gives in BIRDIE. She’s got that star charisma few performers have.

Wait another minute. Shonna Cirone has the hilarious show stopping role of the va va voom secretary/dancer mother has inveigled to hire as a replacement for Rose. She’s only on stage for a few minutes but what an impact. She’s gorgeous and funny and she’s got presence to spare. Director Larry Sousa knows how to pick leading ladies!

Sousa has revamped BIRDIE (lots of extra business begetting extra laughs) and re-choreographed the production numbers (boosting the energy and injecting humor into the dances). From Fosse to American Bandstand, the ensemble hoofing is one of this BIRDIE’s highlights (with ingenious touches like the foot to mouth phones in “The Telephone Hour”).

More praise: Gillian Gordon makes the role of Kim (the girl chosen to kiss Conrad Birdie as he leaves for the army) adorably sweet and the perfect match for Matt Phillips’ wonderfully naïve Hugo, poor fellow. He’s no match for the sexy, swivel hipped Elvis look alike Ryan Overberg (as Conrad). And yes. I was a teen when Elvis was drafted. The musical does not exaggerate the brouhaha it caused.

Brad Walters and Linda Lodi are amusingly flustered as Kim’s (“What’s the Matter With Kids Today”) parents and David Carney and company elevate the bar scene with their surprising peek-a-boo quartet. Naree Ketudat is another name to look out for. She plays Birdie’s number one fan with such cockeyed zeal that you can’t take your eyes off her (and she’s still in high school!).

The teens in Sousa’s ensemble all perform like pros and then some: Their enthusiasm on stage is palpable. Kudos, too, to music director Dan Rodriguez and the jazzy 20 piece orchestra (led by Jeffrey P. Leonard).