'Bye Bye Birdie' brings 1950s Americana to life

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Jul. 28, 2011
The Children's Associated Summer Theatre will be performing 'Bye Bye Birdie' Aug. 4 through 6. Photos by Martha Marteney.
The Children's Associated Summer Theatre will be performing 'Bye Bye Birdie' Aug. 4 through 6. Photos by Martha Marteney.

“I just love musical theater,” said Alyssa Peck, 16, of Manchester, who will be playing the role of Mrs. (Doris) MacAfee in the Children’s Associated Summer Theater production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” In describing her love of acting, Peck explained, “You get up on stage, and it’s not like it’s you anymore.”

“We love ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’” said C.A.S.T. co-founder Donna Mercier. “It’s a great show for us. It’s a happy show.” In the course of the show preparations, Mercier said she immersed the kids in the show’s time period of the late 1950s and early 1960s. She especially wanted the children to understand the family dynamics of that time and impact of the changing world. “They’ve learned a lot,” she said.

“It’s a cool community,” said 12-year-old Matt Falkowski of Manchester about the C.A.S.T. atmosphere. This is his third production with this group, in which he plays Randolph MacAfee, “the annoying younger brother.” His fellow cast members are quick to say that Falkowski is not like his character in real life. “I’m just frankly obsessed with musical theater,” he said, recalling first having fallen in love with “Cats” at age 2. He is now a big fan of dramatic musicals, such as “Sweeney Todd.”

Manchester resident Brian Donovan, 16, has been with C.A.S.T. for eight years. He first joined at his mother’s suggestion, because he was always singing. He described “Bye Bye Birdie” as a more realistic show than past productions (Last year C.A.S.T. produced “The Wizard of Oz.”) For his character of Mr. MacAfee, the father figure, he looked to his own father to better understand the family dynamics. “He [Mr. MacAfee] wants the best for his family,” he said. “He enjoys the simple things.”

“Next year is our 25th anniversary,” noted Mercier. C.A.S.T. is planning a whole year of events, starting in September and culminating with next year’s summer production “Once on This Island.” What started with 35 children has grown to include 93 young actors in the summer production alone. C.A.S.T. is a non-profit, community-based children’s theatre for youngsters ages 5 to 18. It is located at 113 Summit St. in Manchester.

The C.A.S.T. production of "Bye Bye Birdie" will be held at Manchester High School’s air conditioned Bailey Auditorium on Thursday, August 4 at 1 p.m., Friday, August 5 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, August 6 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for seniors and children and $15 for adults. For more information about C.A.S.T. or to purchase tickets, visit the website casttheatre.org or call 860-649-5062.

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