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Bye Bye Birdie Knocks It Out of The Park With Broadway Headliners at the Kennedy Center

Bye Bye Birdie Knocks It Out of The Park With Broadway Headliners at the Kennedy Center

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Broadway Center Stage
Jordan Wright
June 11, 2024

Christian Borle and Krysta Rodriguez (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

Music publisher slash songwriter, Albert Peterson, is in love with his secretary, Rose Alvarez. Head of Almaelou Music Corp. Named after his mother Mae, Lou his beloved dead dog and Al his late father, Albert’s a momma’s boy and as much as he loves Rosie, his super savvy, gorgeous Latina girlfriend, he has commitment phobia. After eight years of devotion to Albert, Rosie is ready to move on.

Albert’s biggest star is rocker Conrad Birdie, an utterly unmanageable sot with a massive fan club of nubile teens. Dreaming up a clever publicity stunt, Albert orchestrates a press event culminating with Conrad kissing the president of Conrad’s fan club on the Ed Sullivan Show. From a stack of fan mail, he chooses the beautiful but recently pinned, Kim Macafee, proud resident of Sweet Apple, Ohio, and President of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club.

Ephram Sykes and Company (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

Predictably, things go south, but not before we meet Alberts’s mother, Mae, Kim’s mom, Doris Macafee, her cranky, authoritarian  dad, Harry Macafee, little brother, Randolph, her fellow fan club members, her steady, Hugo Peabody, and a host of truckers in Charles Maude’s low-down bar in Sweet Apple, fondly known as “The Bellybutton of America”.

This huge revival with its 50’s costumes, 50’s mores and 50’s technology is just as relevant today as it was when it opened on Broadway in 1958, one year after Elvis was drafted into the U. S. Army. So, yes, it has elements of the phenomenon of crazed teenage fans high on their idol, but this Tony Award-winning blockbuster has brilliant choreography, buckets of laughs, unforgettably catchy numbers by the Tony Award-winning collaborators – Composer, Charles Strouse and Lyricist Lee Adams and a Broadway cast that delivers in spades.

Sweet Apple Teens (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

You’ll either recall or swoon to the big numbers – “A Healthy, Normal American Boy”, Rosie’s big song-and-dance solo, “Spanish Rose”, “Honestly Sincere”, “One Last Kiss”, “A Lot of Livin’ to Do”, “Kids”, and the beautiful ballad sung by Albert to Rosie “Baby, Talk to Me”.

Backed by the Kennedy Center’s Opera House Orchestra, 22-strong members who remain onstage, it is a song and dance fest, featuring some of the most amazing voices from both stage and screen. The acting chops are spot on, the comedic timing unparalleled, the dancing hyper-energetic and the story – absolutely irresistible. This tremendously loveable musical has everything, and I adored every minute of it.

Miguel Gil and Ashlyn Maddox (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

You’ll recognize many of the cast – Christian Borle as Albert, who has garnered several “Best Actor” Tony Awards and starring TV roles (he reminded me of the mega-star Dick Van Dyke the ace dancer and comedian); Richard Kind as Kim’s dad, Harry, whom you’ll recognize as the award-winning character actor from stage and screen with his memorable roles in A Serious ManYoung SheldonThe ProducersCurb Your EnthusiasmThe Goldbergs and many more; Krysta Rodriguez, a brilliant hoofer with a mega-watt smile who has starred on Broadway, TV sitcoms and film in such blockbusters as Argo and Tick, Tick… Boom.

Ditto for multi-Tony, Drama Critic and Outer Critics Circle nominee, Ephraim Sykes, as Conrad who was seen on Broadway in Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, Hamilton and Newsies.

1Ephraim Sykes and Company (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

And featuring the queen of the slow burn, Caroline Aaron, who plays Mrs. Mae Peterson, Albert’s mother and the consummate “New Yawker” Jewish mother whom you’ll recognize as Shirley Maisel in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, plus far too many top roles on stage and screen to mention here.

It’s not just a host of big-time singers, hoofers and comedians, but a cast that meshes magnificently in one cohesive, laugh out loud, crazy-wonderful show.

Five Stars (if I gave out stars which I don’t) for Best of the Best Musicals on a DC stage!

Christian Borle and Caroline Aaron (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

With the stunning voice of Ashlyn Maddox as Kim Macafee, Sarah Chu as Helen, Dori Waymer as Nancy, Kelly Lomonte as Margie, Jalen Michael Jones as Freddie, Luke Kolbe Mannikus as Karl, Maria Cristina Posada Slye as Penelope, Victor De Paula Rocha as Harvey, Rennell Taylor as Charlie, Evan Kinnane as Mike, Jackera Davis as Ursula Merkle, Miguel Gil as Hugo Peabody, Jennifer Laura Thompson as Mrs. Doris Macafee, Kevin Ligon as Mayor, Allison Blackwell as Mayor’s Wife, Kevin McAllister as Mr. Merkle and Charles F. Maude, Linda Muggleston as Mrs. Merkle, Megan Sikora as Gloria Rasputin and Mrs. Johnson, and Henry Kirk as Randolph Macafee.

Director Marc Bruni, Music Director John Bell, Choreographer Denis Jones, Music Director John Bell, Book by Michael Stewart, Scenic Design by Lee Savage, Costume Design by Linda Cho, Lighting Design by Cory Pattak, Sound Design by Haley Parcher, Production Design by Nathan Scheuer, Hair & Wig Designer Tom Watson.

Through June 15th at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20566. For tickets and information call the box office at 202 467-4600 or visit

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