BYE BYE BIRDIE: Changes in the Revival



Playbill has a new article about the revival and how the director-choreographer Robert Longbottom will honour the original show while giving it a new spin. This is a bit quotation heavy, I know, but it’s interesting stuff:

Kenneth Jones wrote:
Longbottom says that when Roundabout Theatre Company unveils Bye Bye Birdie… audiences will hear the show’s signature song just as it was presented in 1960 — sort of.

Robert Longbottom wrote:
It’s the exact same dance music… It’s one of the more beloved things from the show. I’m working with the best dance arranger in the business, David Chase, and we could have easily scrapped it and done something new, but it’s brilliant. It’s a great piece of music. I’ve chosen to do it with six very unhappy fan girls.

…. For this first Broadway revival, some revisions and refinements have been made to the show…

Robert Longbottom wrote:
The choice to cast the kids as genuine teenagers made a huge difference — just the believability factor…. I’m sure in 1960 Susan Watson and company were adorable, but Allie Trimm is 15 years old, and it comes with lots and lots of dividends. She’s absolutely adorable. [Ann-Margret, who was in her 20s when she played the curvy Kim in the movie version of the musical] was great and powerful. We’ve taken the number that opens that movie and we use it as our finale curtain call. It’s a dandy little number — Strouse and Adams wrote it. It’s kind of nice to have a title song at the end.

For fans of the show, there are some unresolved song-assignment issues that stick out in the post-Hammerstein, post-Sondheim age of well-made, musically-integrated shows. For example, poor Hugo Peabody, Kim’s boyfriend, never had a song.

Robert Longbottom wrote:
We gave him one….He sings a good deal of “One Boy” [traditionally Kim’s song] because Matt Doyle… has such a voice that we thought: ‘Let that song be a dialogue.’ So he sings a good deal of it. She introduces it and once he’s convinced that she’s genuine, he sings along. It’s great to hear his voice.

Longbottom says Strouse and Adams were “very generous” about being flexible as the new creative team explored the material… Longbottom explains:

Robert Longbottom wrote:
The score is beloved and that record is something that so many people grew up with. I think it would be foolish to play with lyrics, even though there’s a temptation [to change] some things that will be [obscure] to 14-year-olds today — including ‘Ed Sullivan.’ I didn’t want to mess with them. If the context is correct, you’re going to understand who ‘Abby Lane’ was. If you know it, all the better.”

Still, he admits:

Robert Longbottom wrote:
I’ve changed one lyric because I put Mrs. Peterson into “Spanish Rose” — I never could really get ahold of… where that number was taking place, other than an 11 o’clock number on stage…. By putting the mother there as the point of receiving all of that, it made a whole lot more sense for [Rose] to drag out all these kooky stereotypes, and have fun at Mae’s expense…. As opposed to singing, ‘I’m just a Spanish tamale according to Mae,’ she sings ‘you love to say’ — and she sings it directly at Jayne Houdyshell. It pays off and it gives the actress playing Rosie something to really play — and aim it at somebody.

[Gina] Gershon… was quoted recently saying that original director-choreographer Gower Champion’s “Shriners’ Ballet”… was cut from the revival because it was too “gang rape-y.” Longbottom says:

Robert Longbottom wrote:[The specialty piece] was not cut to be politically correct, nor do I look at what they did as any kind of ‘gang rape’…. I felt [the “Shriners’ Ballet”] held up the flow of the story. …As brilliant a number as it was, and it certainly was a terrific showcase for Chita Rivera, there’s something misogynistic about it — there’s something about Rose’s choice going under a table [of men], head first, with her legs spread for four counts of eight, that I didn’t really want to contend with. The bigger reason, ultimately, is that it’s Gower Champion’s number. It’s his concept, it has virtually nothing to do with the movement of the plot. It’s like the ballet they had in the first act [“How to Kill a Man,” according Internet Broadway Database] which is something I didn’t think anybody ever does.

In the full article, there are notes about a few more minor changes and about where the big dance numbers will be. But it seems that there’s been quite a bit of retooling for the revival – quite a new spin indeed. Still, this is a show that’s known for being presented in different forms with different material. I wonder how this version will play and if if will become definitive.

This entry was posted in Broadway, Musicals, Theatremaking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to BYE BYE BIRDIE: Changes in the Revival

  1. Question: is “A Mother Doesn’t Matter Anymore” interpolated into the show for Dee Hoty?

  2. David Fick says:

    Well since Dee Hoty is playing Mrs MacAfee, no. Whether it will be incorporated for Jane Houdyshell or not, we don’t know yet…

  3. Oh – weird, I assumed because of her status that she was Mrs. P. Why is she playing such a thankless role?

  4. Amanda says:

    Why was Barbara Cook willing to do Carrie before the accident that caused her to back out? Everyone’s got to keep bread on the table! 😉 I saw Jayne Houdyshell as Morrible when I went to Wicked. I actually really want to see this revival – lots of good actors to scope out!

  5. Dawn says:

    Amanda wrote:
    Why was Barbara Cook willing to do Carrie before the accident that caused her to back out? Everyone’s got to keep bread on the table!

    The mother in Carrie is a brilliant role. Mrs MacAfee is a small part with barely anything to do.

  6. Sarah Burney says:

    I’m actually quite sad that they aren’t putting the title song in how they worked it in the plot line of the 1990’s TV adaption. It gave Ursula a song and the harmonies are fantastic!

  7. Nick Hoop says:

    You’ll be surprised how much time she gets on stage. Believe me. I’m still wondering how they will do “One Last Kiss” with Bill Irwin and the whole Bill Irwin as Mr MacAfee.

  8. Amanda says:

    Salome wrote:
    The mother in Carrie is a brilliant role.

    Perhaps, but the show is still awful. Barbara Cook has done a lot better stuff in her fabulous career. LOL.

  9. Nick Hoop wrote:
    You’ll be surprised how much time she gets on stage.

    Yes, Mrs MacAfee has a lot of stage time but its not a very well written role . I’m shocked Dee Hoty is playing her unless they rewrote it for her.

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s