August 17, 2007

Sweetwater Summer Institute says “Bye-Bye Birdie”

It’s the 1950’s and Conrad Birdie, an Elvis-like rock star, is about to be inducted into the Army. His publicist can’t resist a great publicity stunt: a contest for an all-American girl to give Birdie one last kiss before heading off to war.

That lucky girl lives in Sweet Apple, Ohio, where Birdie, his publicist, and even the Ed Sullivan Show all converge in a hilarious media frenzy, complicated by the girl’s boyfriend and father, and the publicist’s girlfriend and mother. It’s warfare between males and females, and children and adults, in a clever plot that pokes fun at postwar America and the music superstar phenomenon. Bye-Bye Birdie features terrific music by one of the most successful composers in Broadway history, Charles Strouse.

This 5th annual Sweetwater Summer Theatre Institute production includes more than 30 students from across the district working with the professional performers an d designers.

Rick Rutti stars as publicist Albert Peterson, a role played on Broadway and in the movie version by Dick Van Dyke, with Ria Carey as his would-be fiance Rosie Alvarez, and Keely Rodriguez as his mother. Joey Molina portrays the pop idol Conrad Birdie.

Other key cast members include Marina Inserra as the contest winner, with Charlene Dibelka and Rory Gaetzma as her parents and Christian Campos as her unhappy boyfriend. The music direction is by Eric Mabrey, with scenic and lighting design by Keith Davis and choreography by Christine Timmons. The entire production is directed by San Diego icon William Virchis, assisted by Tokeli Mushovic.

This year in collaboration with the Regional Occupational Program (R.O.P.), this is the fifth year that the Sweetwater Union High School District has sponsored a professional-caliber musical here in Chula Vista. This program is an extraordinary opportunity for the school district’s students to work alongside professional performers, designers, and other artists. The Sweetwater Summer Institute is a key part of the commitment the school district has made to making the visual and performing arts a meaningful part of this community, and of its children’s education.

The Sweetwater Summer Institute presents Bye-Bye Birdie Thursday through Sunday, August 23 to 26, at the Chapman Performing Arts Center at Eastlake High School. Tickets are $10, or $5 for students and seniors. Show times are 7:00 pm Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and 1:00 pm on Sunday. For reservations or more information contact the VAPA Office at 619-691-5848.

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