Bye Bye Birdie opened April 14, 1960. The show featured
Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera and was the first big hit for
songwriters Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, librettist Michael
Stewart, and director Gower Champion. The plot revolves around
rock and roll superstar Conrad Birdie (Dick Gautier) and his
agent, Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke). Albert has gone deep
into debt promoting Birdie's career. Now that Birdie has become
a superstar, however, all of Albert's work is about to pay off.
At least it would have paid off if Birdie had not
just been drafted. To make matters worse, Rosie, Albert's long-time
secretary and love interest, decides to resign. She has waited
eight years for Albert to give up the music business, become
an English teacher, and settle down with her in a nice apartment
somewhere. She will wait no more!
Desperate not to lose Rosie, Albert promises to quit the music
business as soon as he can get enough cash to pay off the debts
he has incurred promoting Birdie's career. Rosie then comes up
with a plan. They will stage a publicity stunt on The Ed Sullivan
Show in which one lucky girl, whose name will be chosen from
the official Conrad Birdie Fan Club, will give Birdie his last
kiss as a civilian on national television. They will use the
publicity from this stunt to promote Birdie's latest hit, "One
Last Kiss". It will be such a success that Albert will easily
make back the money he has lost, and he and Rosie can settle
down comfortably in their new life together. Albert agrees and
immediately sets out to write the song. The lucky girl chosen
to give Birdie his last kiss is Kim MacAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio
.... age 15.
Next we are introduced to the teenagers of Sweet Apple, chattering
endlessly on the telephone. Kim has just resigned as president
of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club because Hugo Peabody has asked
her to go steady and given her his pin. She feels very grown
up and mature. That is, until she learns that she has been chosen
to give Birdie his last kiss! Hugo is not at all happy about
Conrad kissing his girl. Kim assures Hugo that no one will come
between them ("One Boy"), but Hugo isn't buying it.
Soon, Conrad arrives in Sweet Apple, and the town welcomes him
with open arms. He is lodged at the MacAfee household. Mr. MacAfee,
who is dispossessed of his bedroom, is furious until he learns
that the entire family will appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Meanwhile, Rosie is becoming discouraged because Albert has
not yet informed his controlling mother about their marriage
plans. She begins to doubt that Albert will follow through on
his promise. When she meets Hugo, who has decided that he will
not allow his girl to be kissed on national television by another
man, Rosie is sympathetic and offers to help him get into the
studio. Conrad performs "One Last Kiss" live on the
air. He then takes Kim in his arms for the publicity kiss, but
just then Hugo rushes forward and with one well-placed punch,
knocks Conrad out cold!
Albert is furious, but Rosie doesn't care. She has decided
to leave him ("What Did I See in Him?"). Kim has also
decided to leave the "childish" Hugo. Meanwhile, Albert
is frantically trying to reschedule the kiss for the following
evening, but Conrad is fed up with the whole thing and decides
to sneak out of the house for a good time. Outside, he runs into
Kim, who has also snuck out of the house. They decide to go look
for a good time together. However, once they are alone, they
realize that they have nothing in common and they are both bored
stiff. When the police discover them together, the older Conrad
is hauled off to jail on charges of "depravity". Hugo
arrives and Kim his happy to be back with her old beau.
Meanwhile, realizing how much he misses Rosie, Albert finally
confronts his controlling mother and informs her that he is going
to marry the girl. Mother Mae is furious, but Albert doesn't
care--he has made up his mind. Then, learning of Conrad's arrest,
he marches off to arrange for the rock star's release. The next
morning, Conrad happily ships off for active duty. After the
trauma of the last few days, the Army will seem like a vacation!
Finally, meeting Rosie at the train station, Albert informs
her that they are not going back to New York, but rather to Pumpkin
Falls, Iowa, where he has an interview for a post as an English
teacher. He also tells her that they prefer married applicants.
Rosie is, of course, delighted.
Bye Bye Birdie ran for 607 performances at the Martin
Beck Theatre. Dick Van Dyke repeated his role in the 1963 screen
version which also starred Ann-Margret.
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