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Say hello to "Bye Bye Birdie" on Esko stage

After last year's Covid uncertainties, Esko musical theater directors didn't want to revive the fall musical with anything too dark.

"We had enough drama in 2020, so we wanted it to be something that was very uplifting," said Esko choir director Meghan Knudsen.

Enter "Bye Bye Birdie," a 1963 American musical comedy about a 1950s rock-n-roll star, Conrad Birdie, who travels to the small town of Sweet Apple to make his "farewell" television performance before he is inducted into the Army ... and kiss his biggest fan, Kim MacAfee. Things aren't as simple as they seem, however, because MacAfee has recently been "pinned" to local boy, Hugo, and Birdie's manager and his longtime secretary Rose have even more on their minds.

With 40 cast and crew members - plus two elementary students making cameo appearances - "Bye Bye Birdie" is packed with humor, songs, dance, teenage drama and a small dose of real life issues, just to remind folks what really matters.

Co-directed by Joyce Bergstedt and Emily Waldo, Bergstedt said Waldo did the groundwork, doing character sketches and making sure they have the student numbers and talent to make a particular show work. Bergstedt raved about the students' dancing ability while Waldo said she's really enjoying the comedy.

"There's just so much comedy and they are really doing a good job with it," Waldo said.

Earlier this week, the cast performed for their fellow students, so they are ready. Kindergartners were captivated by the "telephone" scene, as the news about Kim and Hugo travels around town, along with the song and dance of Drew Prachar, who plays Almalou Records president Albert Peterson.

"Be prepared to have a good time and laugh a lot, and kind of be inspired by the expressiveness of some of the kids," Knudsen said.

Performances of "Bye Bye Birdie" start at 7 p.m. tonight and again Nov. 17-20, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 21. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for students with ages 3 and younger free at the door or at esko.ludus.com.

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