Bye bye birdie

The seniors prepare for their big opening.

Most Scarsdale High School seniors are taking part in Senior Options, internships that take them away from the tedium of high school life. Yet every day about 50 students return to the high school to practice for the class play, a performance produced entirely by the seniors.

Katie Nova is the director of this year’s effort, which is a staging of “Bye Bye Birdie,” book by Michael Stewart, music by Michael Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams. The Nova edition of “Birdie” is an ever-so-slightly abbreviated version of the Broadway musical about rock star Conrad Birdie being drafted into the U.S. Army. His fans are upset, and so is songwriter Albert Peterson, whose song Birdie was about to record. Albert’s longtime girlfriend, Rosie, pushes Albert to write a new tune that Birdie will sing on television to a fan selected in a contest. Kim McAfee wins the contest. Her parents are thrilled; her boyfriend Hugo not so much.

Nova has been part of drama club productions before, and is passionate about making sure events go off without a hitch. “I couldn’t do what Katie does,” says Christine Coco, who will be playing May Peterson, Albert’s mother.

And Katie has had to do a lot. “There are been bumps in the road … The main lead missed the first two days of practice,” Coco said. “Katie handles it well, though.”

Although it may seem like the final two months before graduation are easy — finals are over and all that’s left is Senior Options — many seniors are keeping themselves extremely busy.

“A bunch of the guys in the play are doing sports on top of their internships,” said Will Solie, a member of the ensemble cast. “It’s crazy.” Many athletes in the cast reportedly missed rehearsals because of important games they were obligated to attend.

One other challenge is that the majority of seniors in the play are new thespians, which meant many didn’t know the terms of the theater. During one rehearsal, Nova had to repeatedly tell performers to go “stage left” after they went in the wrong direction.

During rehearsal on May 14, the actors ran through Act II for the first time in full. The main performers worked hard to put on a good show. Lindsay Gelles slathered on an appropriate layer of melodrama playing Rosie. Noam Cherki, who plays Albert Peterson, led a rousing rendition of “Normal American Boy,” despite not being a trained vocalist. Becca Sklar as Kim and Ben Schwartz as Conrad Birdie also put on solid performances.

One place where the show really shines is in the set design. At the start of Act II, a large bedroom set was rolled out, easily sturdy enough to hold the weight of two actors. Part of this high quality can be attributed to “Steve, the tech guy” a.k.a. Stephen Bogardus, the SHStechnical directorwho plays a part in making sure every play runs smoothly.

The class play has been the highlight of senior year for many, and whereas it might seem like the only people who would attend this play are the parents of the actors, this is no longer true. Seniors are performing not only in front of their peers, but also in front of their community. Katie Nova made this clear at the start of rehearsal. “Please do not use your phones, now or on stage. Remember, you are acting as a representative of your grade and your town,” she said.

Even with Nova’s hard work and effort, and the push to get a fine performance out of the cast, the play still remains a fun event for seniors to take part in. When asked what drew him to join the play, Will Solie said, “It just seemed like a fun thing to do. I tried doing other things, like sports and computer science, but I’m not an athlete or a computer person.”

Christina Coco expressed similar feelings. “The people here are just so much fun,” she said. “People involved in theater are so fun, because they’re on stage for the audience’s enjoyment.”

Tickets are $15 for students and $20 for adults at the door or online at eventbrite.

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