Rehearsals are ramping up for the Delaware Hayes Thespians’ production of “Bye Bye Birdie,” which opens later this month.
The cast will perform the show four times: March 17, March 18 and March 19 at 7:30 p.m, and at a matinee on March 19 at 2 p.m. The show follows the drama that ensues when Elvis-inspired teen idol Conrad Birdie, played by Hayes senior Ryan Gray, visits a small Ohio town as part of a PR stunt before he is conscripted into the army.
Gray said his favorite part of the show was learning the Elvis-style dances and mannerisms.
“It’s more fun, especially because I’ve never done Elvis-style dancing,” Gray said. “I can do a lot more wild stuff than I usually do. The Elvis dancing is just so fun. He’s such a big character. It’s fun, but it’s very difficult because you have to be able to convey an older style of writing to a newer audience.”
Gray added he’s enjoying his last show at Hayes.
“It was a really fun way to end my senior year,” he said. “I’ve been doing productions since sixth grade, so it’s been really fun to have such an amazing role.”
Senior Elijah Shireman, who plays Albert Peterson, Birdie’s songwriter, said the show is the first big one to happen since the Thespians cancelled the production of “Chicago,” which was set to be performed one week after the pandemic lockdown began.
“It’s just really fun to throw together a big dancing, flashy musical again,” Shireman said. “I’m really enjoying the character. This is the first big musical lead I’ve had. I’ve loved every moment of it.”
Shireman added he’s thankful to the school and Delaware Hayes Thespians for putting on the production for his senior year.
“I’m just glad we get to do something,” he said. “I didn’t think we’d get to do a large-scale musical. I feel very lucky to be able to have this as my senior show.”
Senior Izzy Crissinger, who plays Rose Alvarez, Peterson’s secretary, said it’s a new type of role for her to take on.
“This is different for me. I’ve always played kids,” Crissinger laughed. “This is a challenging character for me and something really different than anything I’ve ever done here.”
Crissinger added she’s sad her senior year is coming to a close, but she’s thankful to go out with this show.
“I am excited. It came very quickly,” Crissinger said. “Everyone always tells you that and then you get there and it’s crazy. This is a great show to end my high school experience on … There’s been a lot of people that I had never encountered that I’m glad that I’ve met (through the show.)”
Senior Rachel White, who plays Kim MacAfee, a fan-girl of Birdie and the center of the PR stunt, said rehearsing for the show has been a highlight of hers.
“Senior year musical is pretty emotional in many ways,” White said. “It’s been great to sit back, relax, and enjoy this final year of doing shows. All the friends I’ve made throughout this high school theater career, they make it so amazing.”
White said she’s glad the school is able to put on a big show again, and she’s enjoyed learning all the dances.
“Getting back into those big group numbers has been so fun,” White said. “I missed that so much. This is the biggest cast we’ve had since ‘Chicago.’ It’s different to have all these people back together, but we came together like we always do and we lift each other up. Theater is one of the things I’m going to miss the most. It’s great to have this last production.”
Junior Ethan Terry and senior Carmen Cockerham play Kim’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. MacAfee, respectively. The pair said their off-stage friendship helped them get into their characters.
“We’ve always been friends, but now we’re always with each other,” Cockerham joked, adding the hardest part of the production was learning to stand and talk like a 1950s character.
Terry said the pair spend their off-stage time rehearsing together, and he had some difficulty at first playing a parent, especially one as short-tempered and dramatic as Mr. MacAfee.
“I’ve never played a dad in a show before,” Terry said. “(The director) said try doing things like your own dad, and my dad is monotone, but (Mr. MacAfee) is not monotone. He’s very out there and dramatic, so I can’t really copy my dad.”
Cockerham said she’s enjoying the show, even if it is the last one she’ll do at Hayes.
“I feel like this is a good way to end it,” she said. “I’m able to do this and be proud this was my senior show.”
The show is two hours long with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets are available at onthestage.tickets/delaware-hayes-thespians.