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Incline’s “Bye Bye Birdie” Soars

Review by Laurel Humes of Bye Bye Birdie: Incline Theatre

Bye Bye Birdie is just plain fun, the perfect opener for the easy-going summer season at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.

The musical now is nearly 60 years old, inspired by Elvis Presley, his fanatical teenage fans, and the period when the famous singer was drafted and served in the Army. Still, the show and especially the songs seem fresh and relevant.

There is much to enjoy in Incline Theater’s production, starting with the darling “Telephone Hour” number. Staged on a Hollywood Squares-type set (another historical reference!), teenage boys and girls are all on their phones, abuzz with the news that Kim (Mikayla Renfrow) and Hugo (Joel Parece) are pinned.

The high-energy number is a preview of what we’ll see throughout the show – the teen ensemble is comprised of talented young singers and dancers, drawn from area colleges. Kudos right away to choreographer Jeni Bayer Schwiers and costumer Caren Brady (poodle skirts!).

Meanwhile, there is an adult love story between Albert (Jeremiah Plessinger) and his long-suffering secretary and fiancé Rose (Renee Stoltzfus). Albert is songwriter and manager for heartthrob Conrad Birdie (David Emery). Revenues will plummet during Birdie’s Army stint.

But here’s the gimmick that brings everyone together. Send Birdie to Sweet Apple, Ohio, for “One Last Kiss” to local fan club president Kim, and a whole lot of media coverage (remember the Ed Sullivan Show?).

There are some fine performances. Plessinger is a smooth singer, and the “Put On a Happy Face” number also shows off his dancing and acting talents. Stoltzfus’ Rose is fiery and funny; her comedic acting gift, along with great singing and dancing, are on best display in her “Spanish Rose” solo.

Mikayla Renfrow, a musical theatre student at UC’s College Conservatory of Music, certainly has a great career ahead of her. She has natural stage presence, paired with a wonderful voice.

There is a comic tour de force by Angela Alexander Nalley as Albert’s overbearing mother, doing all she can to break up his romance with Rose. Dylan McGill is funny as Kim’s father, doing his best impression of Paul Lynde, the comic actor who played the role on Broadway and in the movie. “Kids” is a standout number, with McGill and Samantha Stapleton as his wife.

Bye Bye Birdie, directed by Tim Perrino, is a lively, entertaining evening of theater.

The show continues through May 27 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill. For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.