By Isabel Kettler – Nobody in the cast of Lincoln High’s musical, Bye Bye Birdie, is exactly how sure how many times Harper Wilmoth has had to sing “Put on a Happy Face.” They only know it was a lot.
And it’s not only Wilmoth who has been performing these incessantly catchy show tunes since early January. A group of about 120 students worked tirelessly to bring the story of the drafted rock-n-roll singer Conrad Birdie, who gives one lucky girl from his fan club one last kiss before going to serve, to the stage. It was impossible to not get one of these songs stuck in their heads at some point during production.
Aside from the abnormal amount of earworms in the musical score, one thing that really stood out about this production is the talent behind it. Though a number of theatre veterans returned to work on this production, they were always assuming new roles, and a large number of students who had never done theatre before came in to act. Wilmoth said, “[As some of us] are learning to do musical theatre, everyone else is learning to do theatre.”
One person who has learned a lot through all this process is costumer Olivia Andrews. Andrews, usually an actor, stepped behind the curtain for this production to assist Carolyn Kerns, LHS graduate Jocelyn Ernst, and the mothers of several Lincoln High students and alumni.
“I definitely like to act in theatre a lot, but this is my first show backstage, and it’s really been kind of eye opening in a way,” Andrews said.
For many of the veteran actors, acting in a musical was new. Senior Clara Higgins, who played Kim MacAfee – the teenager Conrad Birdie is supposed to kiss – has been in many plays, but only one musical before because there’s the dancing and the music and the acting aspect of it, Higgins said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s really cool to just put all those shows together and make it come to life.” Junior Harper Wilmoth has a new role in that not only is he in a musical, he’s also playing the lead role.
Wilmoth also spoke about how different this style of show is for Lincoln High. “This show is very showy, it’s very grand. That’s not necessarily Lincoln High’s style. And I’m glad that we’re having some diverse theatre, but it’s also just a new experience for a lot of people [who have been in theatre before].” The massive sets of the show were a major crowd pleaser
during performances, especially the brightly colored boxes used during the “Telephone Hour” musical number. One piece of the set, a huge record bearing the words “One Last Kiss” had to be scrapped because it was too big. Instead, the record took up residence behind the ticket-sellers in the front lobby.
When the massive amount of work finally came to fruition on opening night, it was director Molly Thomas’ favorite moment of the show.
“I love the songs, I love the dancing, I love the energy of it,” she said. This well-known musical was also a huge draw, bringing in large crowds each night. In fact, all three shows resulted in at least 1,000 sold tickets. The cast and crew accomplished something truly special, and gave “Birdie” an excellent send-off.
(Top) The citizens of Sweet Apple, Ohio praise Conrad Birdie (center) played by Alex Hamann (10) during a performance of Bye Bye Birdie in the Ted Sorensen Theatre on Thursday, February 25.
(Bottom) (Left to Right) Kira Stahly (12), Harper Wilmoth (11), and Taylor Headley (12) perform during a dance break in “Put on a Happy Face” during a performance of Bye Bye Birdie Thursday, February 25 in the Ted Sorensen Theatre
Photos by Angel Tran