Teenage dating and jealousy, a rock ’n’ roll star’s last performance before shipping overseas and parental lamentations over the state of disobedient youth—what’s not to love?
Chattanooga Christian School opens its production of “Bye Bye Birdie” this Thursday, March 7.
The musical will run through March 16 with Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances both this week and next week at 7 p.m. each night in the school’s Fine Arts Center.
A classic satire of Broadway, “Bye Bye Birdie” was first mounted on the Great White Way in 1960 and made into a film in 1963. It has also been versioned into a sequel, a West End run, a U.S. tour in the 1990s and a full revival in 2009.
The original production earned seven Tony nominations in 1961 and won four awards, including Best Musical and Best Choreography.
“It is just a really charming, hilarious show with some of the best musical theater music,” said Mary Catherine Schimpf, the production’s director and a theater teacher at Chattanooga Christian School. “It’s a time capsule of an interesting era.”
The Theater Department at the private school has staged versions of classics such as “Annie,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “The Music Man.”
“Bye Bye Birdie,” set in 1958, was based on the dilemma that struck the music industry—specifically the star and his manager—when Elvis received his draft notice and went into the Army.
The musical follows a rock ’n’ roll crooner and his manager as they orchestrate one final media blitz before he ducks out of the public eye for military service. The stunt involves a concert and a planned kiss in a small town, which seems like a perfect last brush with an all-American hero—but turns out to be a situation primed for misunderstandings, a jealous boyfriend and underage partying.
Chattanooga Christian School’s production involves 62 students, though the full cast draws on community support with more than 100 people. The audience can expect the thrill of big dance numbers; a 24-piece live orchestra; and even a hip-swiveling, Elvis-like character decked out in nothing less than a gold suit.
Schimpf noted that the production’s vital details in the costumes and sets came from the community, including the vintage 1950s props and a moving train on the stage.
Tickets are available for $12. Chattanooga Christian School is located at 3354 Charger Drive.