Published on July 22nd, 2013 | by Karin Jenkins0
A Behind the Scenes Look at the Upcoming Musical “Bye Bye Birdie”
When you go to a theater show, I wish you could buy two tickets. One to watch the show from the audience and one to observe the “other show” that always goes on behind the scenes. Since it is not likely that you will get a behind the scenes ticket – I thought it might be fun to give you an idea of what is going on right now behind the curtains. You’ll get a glimpse of the rehearsals leading up to the show, and the people you are watching on stage sing, dance and act their little hearts out for our community.
The musical is called “Bye Bye Birdie” which opens this Friday night, July 26th at the Little Theatre of New Smyrna Beach, and runs for two weekends. The NSB Observer recently released a description of the show and ticket information online, as well as in the printed edition of the paper, so if you want more information on the story of “Bye Bye Birdie,” click here.
This particular production has been fun to watch and be a part of with such a vast age group working side by side together to put on a show. Our youngest actor is seven- year- old Dawson Faulds. Dawson plays my son, Randolph Macafee. He plays a ten- year- old onstage and is real quick to tell you so. We have a bunch of energetic cast members all the way up into their eighties.
What is so great to observe is this group of people, coming together for one thing – a love for theatre. With a cast of 32, who are playing a total of 65 different characters, you would think that it would be utter chaos backstage most all of the time. In my observations, it’s been really quite the opposite (except for the set changes of which there are around 20. Yes, I said 20.)
I must admit, we all feel a bit like we are trying to dodge large bullets getting off or on stage, but it is a challenge we are all, as a team, trying to work with. So if you are in the audience and a set change takes a bit of time, be patient, we are doing our best. There are 32 cast members, plus I don’t even know the head count on backstage crew of all ages, large blocks and heavy sets on wheels that we are all trying to get on or off stage in record time while dealing with very little wing space (sides of the stage).
I have to give a “shout out” to all the unsung heroes backstage that are working so hard to make the actors on stage look good. Without all of you moving sets off and on, running lights and sound, stage managing, creating set design, props, costumes, and so much more, we wouldn’t have a show.
Everyone has their own way of gearing up to go on stage. Some go off in a quiet area to help get into their character. Others wait in the green room (a break room for cast and crew) or makeup room and listen to what is going on via a monitor until it is close to their stage entrance.
A lot of actors tend to read their scripts backstage throughout the show just to remember what’s next, what their next line is, and where they are supposed to be.
All this happens after we have gone through a one- and- a- half to two hour process of vocal warm ups, sound checks for our body microphones, hair/wigs, makeup and costumes.
I was standing backstage one night when I observed such a beautiful act of sibling love. During a hectic scene change, I watched older sister, Ashley Faulds, taking time to stop and tell her brother, Dawson, that she was so proud of him before she ran off to do her next scene. Just one of about a million random acts of kindness I have observed over the past several weeks.
We have both guys and girls who are busy trying to get ready or get the next set in place, but always make time to help their fellow cast members with costume changes, or a hair, wig or makeup crisis. I want you all to know that this is one of the kindest groups of people I have ever worked with. There are no prima donnas in this show…unless it’s me and I am just not aware of it. The teens are especially polite, thoughtful, respectful, and hardworking. There is a huge mutual respect between everyone involved in this show with both cast and crew.
We have young and older actors who are on this stage for the first time and we have others with 25+ years of experience on our stage. But trust me, when this show opens, you won’t be able to tell which is which. The teaching process has not only come from our great Director, Kendra Blazi, our mega talented Musical Director, Julia Hood, and our show-stopper choreographer, Casey Rollins, but from the actors themselves. I think one of the most amusing lessons was watching our teens try to get used to using a phone that had a cord and a rotary dial since this story takes place in the early sixties. My how times have changed.
You would think with a cast and crew this large I would have more drama to report, but it has been minimal. Actually, I think I managed to take first place in the drama category myself with my awesome fall during one of the big musical numbers. I lost my balance trying to get my stage husband, Harry Macafee (played by Larry Schnabel), to take his seat. When all was said and done, I ended up with a concussion and a bruised tail bone. Perhaps one of my best performances yet. I now refer to the “Ed Sullivan” scene as my death-defying act. I must admit I still think this is one of my favorite scenes. When Jareck Butterbrodt, who plays the title role of Conrad Birdie, sings “One Last Kiss” I guarantee it will be impossible for you to hold still in your seats.
We all do these shows for different reasons. For me, I chose this summer show for several reasons. I get to perform in a show with my husband, David Jenkins, who plays the male lead role as Albert Peterson. We love doing shows together whenever possible. It was also a great way to keep us both off the sofa and out of the kitchen at night…if you catch my drift? I don’t play David’s leading lady in this show, but I have been playing that role in real life for 32 years.
Speaking of leading ladies – Paige Elizabeth plays Rose Alvarez and she is great. No stranger to the Little Theatre stage, you will love to see what Paige brings to her character. She is fun and funny both on stage and behind the scenes.
I asked for some input from other cast members and I would like to share some of their thoughts and feelings as well:
“My experience working with high school students lead the play reading committee and the board of directors to ask me if I’d be willing to direct Birdie this summer. I worked on this production my senior year of high school as our stage manager, so it has a special place in my heart. I have loved every aspect of this show, but I am especially fond of my time spent with Gail Ente finding and creating the perfect costume pieces for the era. The colors, patterns and styles are all perfect!” – Kendra Blazi, Director
“I decided to do this show because I wanted to expand my horizons in the world of musical theatre and I felt this musical was something that could be very fun for me. My favorite process of the show so far is the choreography, because even though some of us may mess up a couple of times, we are always ready to have a little laugh and get back up on our feet and try again. I never thought I could sing and dance that well. Now, working on this show, I have realized that I have potential in both of these areas, and I want to continue to expand on these areas as much as possible.” – Christopher Tyson, role of Harvey Johnson
“I came out for the show because I wanted to do something different from working behind the scenes. My favorite part is being with all the people and seeing the show come together. I was getting nervous about it, plus remembering my lines. My least favorite is singing, I’m not good at keeping a tune but I’m trying very hard. I have learned I’m not as nervous as I thought being on stage. Plus I can remember my lines!” – Debbi Zill, Roles of Reporter #1, Wardrobe Lady #1, and Parent
“I just love performing! I’ve been on the stage since I was three years old. This is my passion, and I couldn’t think of any better way to spend my summer. My favorite process of the show has been the music. Singing these songs is so much fun, especially when I get the chance to put my own style into them. I love every aspect of performing, but I would have to say that the choreography has not been my favorite process. Dancing is not my specialty, so it sometimes takes me a few attempts until I master something. Thanks for your patience Ms. Casey! By doing this show, I’ve actually learned a lot about myself. One interesting fact would be that I love to have my own little quiet space backstage to either get into character, or take a little breather after a major dance number.” – Sydney Rogers, Role of Kim MacAfee
“I’ve wanted to audition for the Little Theatre for quite some time and since my director from the high school happened to be directing a show over the summer, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity. It’s been so much fun working with classmates, alumni, and adults who have been acting for years. The cast overall has just been wonderful to be around and we’ve had a really great time putting the show together. This is my first show combining complicated choreography with intense music and I’ve loved the challenge. The late nights definitely have to be the hardest part of the whole process. We’re having some rehearsals that don’t get out until 10:30, after hours of elaborate costumes, stage makeup and more hair product than anyone can imagine. Regardless, the finished product will be so worth it. Through this show, I’ve learned how to work in different circumstances and that I am capable of doing so. Doing a show at a community theatre is a completely different world than the high school. You have people with 30 years’ experience pressuring you not to mess up, but you also have the opportunity to learn priceless lessons from them to carry with you in the future.” – Cheyenne Drews, Roles of Nancy and Sad Girl #1
“Why am I doing this show? I ask myself that same question every night – especially when I am crawling under the table in the Shriners scene. I find that I like everyone in the cast that I talk with.” – Don Campbell, Roles of Trainman, Man #2, 1st Customer, Stage Hand # 3, and Shriner
“I didn’t really decide to do Birdie. I am a real ‘newbie’ in the theater world and I am trying to go to as many auditions as I can to see what the process is and how different directors handle their own process.” – Monty Montcalm, Roles of Maude, Traveler, and Stage Hand #1
“I love musicals, costuming and getting to know the cast!” – Ida Bailey, Role of Mrs. Mae Peterson
“I did this show in high school and had such fond memories, that I wanted to revisit the show and be involved in it again. I also feel that the show, in content, is about nostalgia, thematically. I knew that I would be able to be transported back in time, in more ways than one. The ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ journey has been a great one, yet again. When I create dances, I see technical moves, elements, pieces and parts. When you apply a real person, an actor, full of character and energy, it makes the whole thing come alive. It is no longer cold and one dimensional. I laugh and crack up every single time I watch the cast do their dances because the whole thing is full of love and comedy. Troubleshooting has been my least favorite part of the process. The dances start with a singular idea, but things change and grow and, with that, the content has to change and grow. For example, music changes or sets coming together, the amount of space on the stage or how many people you can cram into a small space. I have had several miniature panic attacks, but so far it seems to have all worked out just fine. The best way to approach a show and use the cast, the people you are so lucky to work with, is through a collaborative attitude. Two heads are better than one and our cast is large. That is a lot of good heads with good ideas.” – Casey Rollins, Choreographer
I am always hearing people say, “They just don’t make musicals like the good old days.” Well, the NSB Little Theatre listened and is giving you what you wanted.
In this story, kids aren’t spending every spare moment texting their friends, adults aren’t constantly taking business calls on their cell phones in the middle of dinner. Girls act and dress like young ladies, and the boys don’t wear their pants below their hips. This is a “feel good” musical story with tunes you won’t be able to get out of your head for days. It’s small town U.S.A. at its finest – whether you are watching in the audience or behind the scenes.