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A veteran rules `Bye Bye Birdie'

The staging at Madrid Theatre uses aspiring talent and pros. The seasoned Jaclyn Miller is a standout.

July 18, 2007|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

Teen spirit infuses "Bye Bye Birdie" at the Madrid Theatre in Canoga Park. That's as it should be in this 1960s musical revolving around an Army-bound rock 'n' roll idol and his swooning fans.

A well-trained teen ensemble and theater professionals are pluses in this Golden Performing Arts Center production, mitigating its community theater vibe. In the Charles Strouse-Lee Adams-Michael Stewart spoof of Ed Sullivan, Elvis-mania and screaming bobby-sox fandom, the relationship between mama's boy Albert (a pleasantly flustered Mishi Schueller) and Albert's secretary and long-suffering fiancee Rosie (sparkling Jaclyn Miller) propels the plot.

Albert -- teen idol Conrad Birdie's manager -- needs to exploit the star's draft into the military for promotional purposes; Rosie, hoping to hasten their wedding day, comes up with a gimmick: The leather-jacketed, pelvis-thrusting, hair-obsessed Conrad (able Robert Petrarca) will bestow his "Last Kiss" as a civilian on a fan in small-town Ohio. A media circus and teen hysteria ensue, and complications arise for Kim (Lindsay O'Neil), the 15-year-old recipient of the kiss.

Accompanied by a live orchestra under conductor and pianist Lloyd Cooper and crisply led by director Kevin P. Kern, choreographer Joe Joyce and musical director Paul Taylor, the cast performs with varying degrees of expertise, a pastiche of pros and aspiring talent.

O'Neil, although her vocals suffer from an unfortunate nasality, is proficiently sweet as Kim; Dan Wilson Davis, a too low-key Dad, finds the necessary bounce to sell one of the show's signature songs, "Kids," while Toni Taubman has a scenery-chewing blast as Albert's self-martyred Mama Mae.

The ensemble numbers add eager-to-please charm and a quartet of harmonizing bartenders (Mike Mozer, Ramone Owens, Kelly Tatro, Patrick Tiller) kicks it up another notch.

Most noteworthy is Miller, a seasoned, graceful dancer and singer with deft comic timing to boot. Schueller rises to the occasion for their "Rosie" duet -- not losing a romantic beat even when he tumbled off an unbalanced rolling cart at a recent performance. On the downside, it's all too clear that Miller sets the bar higher than many of her costars are able to meet.


`Bye Bye Birdie'

Where: Madrid Theatre, 21622 Sherman Way, Canoga Park

When: 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; also 8 p.m. July 27

Ends: July 29

Price: $23 to $31

Contact: (818) 347-9938

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

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