Westerville South High School embraces a large cast as they present the musical classic Bye Bye Birdie this weekend.
The 1960s Broadway musical hit is a satire about American culture in the 1950s. Teens are devastated by the news when rock and roll star and American heartthrob Conrad Birdie, played by senior Curtis Mitchell, enters the Army.
In an orchestrated publicity stunt, Birdie will bid farewell by kissing a girl good-bye on The Ed Sullivan Show. Kim MacAfee, portrayed by senior Caitlin Cahoon, won the opportunity, but finds herself in trouble with her new "going steady" beau Hugo, her family and the whole town.
Director Matt Wolfe said Bye Bye Birdie is perfect for South's young actors since it has many roles and highlights many talents.
"We just wanted to find a musical that could include lots of people with a very wide range of roles and a show that focused on community more than a specific singer," Wolfe said. "It has a positive message. It's bright and cheery."
Originally, Conrad Birdie's character was based on Elvis Presley and his effect on American society. The play stays true to its original form, but students changed the Elvis-inspired character to a more relatable rock star.
"Our Conrad isn't your typical Elvis. He's more urban than the flashy sparkle of Elvis," Wolfe said.
"I think it's helped us make it more about us and a group of people," Wolfe added. "Elvis is not nearly as accessible as generations ago. Instead of us trying to idolize someone we've never met or seen, we've been able to form a cast and idolize someone we understand. It helps the kids get into the character more."
When Wolfe announced that this spring's musical was Bye Bye Birdie, many students were unfamiliar with the play and turned to YouTube to learn about the music and the characters.
"I just looked it up on YouTube and I saw that it looked kind of funny and goofy like the Elvis persona of Conrad," said senior Curtis Mitchell, who plays Conrad Birdie.
Students liked that the play required a large cast and created opportunities for students of all experience levels.
Jacob Williams, a senior who plays Kim's father, Mr. MacAfee, has been involved with theater since his freshman year. This year, as an exiting senior, he enjoys seeing the underclassmen craft their acting skills.
"It just makes me happy to see all these people enjoying the thing I've been passionate about all my life," Williams said. "It's great to see how far members like Curtis and the chorus members have come."
Cahoon, another graduating senior, said this was the best play to finish her high school career.
"I think this is a great show to end the year and to end my experience in high school because it is so light-hearted and so fun," Cahoon said. "I love it. It's just so enjoyable to be a part of and I'm glad this is the show."
Shows are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 25-27, at Westerville South High School, 303 S. Otterbein Ave. Tickets are $10 and available at the door.