On Thursday, the third of Stuart White’s annual popular Broadway shows premiered at Mantlwaneng. Bye Bye Birdie opened with a handful of players who participated in White’s last two productions making reappearances.
Joe Matome, who played Mr Warbucks in last year’s Annie, this time stars as Mr McAfee, the father to Kim, the young girl who is selected to be kissed by an Elvis-like character named Conrad Birdie. Mandi Mashingaidze this year plays Kim’s mother and Brando Keabilwe, the swaggering Conrad.
Bye Bye Birdie is an upbeat play about a star who is drafted into the army, but in this case, the story interestingly shows how the jaded world of celebrity-dom really works. A result of tireless choreography of spinning statements by the artist management and publicity officers, this is depicted in a scene where the management coaches a few kids from Birdie’s fan club, a song about Birdie to create an ‘ambiance’ for the press, working up to the release of the One Last Kiss song.
Also remarkable is the fact that this whirlwind is solely for Albert (Martin Norman), who is Birdie’s manager to make $50 000 to pay off his debts before resigning from managing Birdie. Albert is a mild mannered softie, which covers the sins of his selfish spin doctoring. Now if Albert had been a barking, table pounder…
Ursula, who is Kim McAfee’s best friend, along with her small army of Conrad fans, displays teenage celebrity worship like I have never seen before. Tauauna Shepherd, who plays Ursula, is well suited for the part shakily singing Birdie’s song, half way through their, ‘thousand times in one night’ marathon.
Jeannette Summerton also shines in her portrayal of a self suffering mother, who thickly lays on the guilt on her son Albert, “Don’t worry, when I die wrap me up in a flag and throw me in the river,” she says miserably in her song, A Mother Doesn’t Matter Anymore. Maria Kathurima, who played Annie last year, was also notable as she sang a minor solo in the song Bye Bye Birdie, her clear voice well suited for musicals.
One can only look forward to her maturation and taking on more principal parts in future musicals.
However, the cast’s costumes were quite good but amplifying the actors proved a bit tricky due to the frequent feedback and the unfortunate way microphones tend to pick up the tiniest singing errors. The play is worth seeing because of its light-hearted plot and high energy as teenagers rile with enthusiasm for their idol. Bye Bye Birdie is still open at Mantlwaneng and tickets are on sale at Mantlwaneng, Maitisong and Riverwalk.