Musical Theater at My High School

Last Saturday night I went back to my high school, Fordham Prep, to see their production of Bye Bye Birdie. It was a nostalgic trip, bringing back fond memories of the eight plays in which I performed during my time with the Prep's Drama Society. Those experiences helped bring me out of my shell, taught me lessons that I've carried with me ever since, and introduced me to some great friends. 

This production was a lot of fun, directed nicely by T.J. Sullivan who brought out the best in the talented young cast and made full use of the big stage at Leonard Theater. Unlike the twenty-somethings that often pass for students in televised dramas like Glee and High School Musical, these are real kids with raw skills, but their enthusiasm and energy easily connected with the audience, making for a truly engaging evening.

The cast was huge, too many names for me to remember, but they were all obviously having a great deal of fun with the delightful material created by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse. Domenick Velardi was a solid Albert Paterson, whose client Conrad Birdie (modeled on Elvis Presley and played wonderfully by Chidi Okoro-Anyata) is about to get drafted. They plan a big publicity stunt on The Ed Sullivan Show as a "farewell" gift to their fans. It's a lovely look at 1950s pop culture with lots of laughs and catchy tunes.

The female leads really stood out, with strong performances by Kimberly Guzman as Rosie Alvarez, Krista Febles as Kim MacAfee, Angela Eckhoff as the hilarious Mrs. Peterson, and Michelle Morris as Ursula. Some of the male stand-outs were Derek Smith as Mr. MacAfee, Michael Bennis as Randolph MacAfee, Tom Spitzer as Hugo Peabody, and Tom Murphy as the Mayor. 

Fordham Prep will soon celebrate 100 years of theater, but they've only produced musicals since 1974. Here's a list of them in alphabetical order (with the role I played next to the four musicals I was in during my high school days).

Anything Goes
Damn Yankees (I played Rocky)
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Guys and Dolls
Hello, Dolly
Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat
Man of La Mancha
The Music Man (I played one of the Traveling Salesmen)
Pajama Game
The Robber Bridegroom (I was part of the Ensemble)
South Pacific
The Threepenny Opera
West Side Story (I played Diesel)

Now, I have to record the movie version of Bye Bye Birdie (starring Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margaret, Maureen Stapleton, and Paul Lynde) the next time it runs on TV.