The cast of the Manlius production of "Bye Bye Birdie" practices in the weeks following up to the show. Submitted Photo)
By Hayleigh Gowans
From July 20 to 22, local performers will showcase a wide array of singing, dancing and acting talents in the Town of Manlius Summer Musical of “Bye Bye Birdie” — and brushing off his entertainment chops along with the cast will be Manlius Town Supervisor Ed Theobald, who performed in the same musical in 1976 with the Cazenovia Community Theater.
“Bye Bye Birdie” is a musical set in the 1960s about rock n’ roll sensation Conrad Birdie (Nick Ziobro), who, to the dismay of his agent Albert Petersen (Eric Feola), gets drafted into the Army. His secretary Rose “Rosie” Alvarez (Tara O’Conner) comes up with a plan to have Conrad record and perform a song and give a girl from his fan club a real “last kiss” on The Ed Sullivan Show before he goes overseas.
The girl chosen to receive this kiss is Kim MacAfee (Caeli Carroll), a small-town girl from Sweet Apple, Ohio, who already has a love interest in her life, Hugo Peabody (Jeffrey Salamone). The characters deal with the dramas of complicated love, jealousy, friendship and fame in the events leading up to the performance. Other lead characters include Harry MacAfee (Joseph Spado), Mrs. MacAfee (Carol Minkstein), Randolph MacAfee (Elijah Gerbers) Mrs. Mae Paterson (Ellen Kotzin) and Ursula Merkle (Samantha Atkins).
This year’s creative team includes Ronald A. Hebert as the director, Maggie Dougherty as the music director and Marisa Guzmán as choreographer.
One of the roles in the musical is of the Mayor of Sweet Apple, and Theobald said he was asked by the Manlius Recreation Department if he would be interested in filling this role because he had experience performing in a production of “Bye Bye Birdie” in Cazenovia in 1976.
“I looked up the Mayor’s role and it seemed interesting,” said Theobald. “I brought out my book and it was all coming back to me. It’s like riding a bike … I’m excited for the performances and to see how it all comes together.”
When Theobald first performed in the musical, he was fresh out of his service in the Army himself, and was approached by some local friends about joining the Cazenovia Community Theater. Theobald said he always had an interest in entertaining, having performed in a school play and emceeing several events in the past, so he agreed.
In 1976, Theobald was a member of the ensemble, playing a member of Conrad Birdie’s band and a bartender. According to an article in the August 11, 1976 edition of the Cazenovia Republican, Jeanne Cunningham, along with Jim Woodworth, cast and directed the musical. Conrad Birdie was played by Keith Congdon who dressed “in a skin-tight gold lame suit, had the Elvis Presley mannerisms and macho down pat” the article stated. The cast also included Julie Brown as the leader of the Birdie Fan Club, Ed Loftus as her boyfriend, John Kennedy as her kid brother and Mary Farnsworth and Jim Woodworth as the parents.
The Cazenovia Community Theater put on a few more plays Theobald was involved acting in, “Godspell” in 1977 and “How to Succeed in Business” in 1978, but after a few years, he said it was hard to make time to act as he was establishing his career and had married his wife, Bridget.
Countless hours have been spent by the cast practicing and refining the acting, songs and choreography to bring an unforgettable show to Manlius. Experiencing these practices has helped Theobald remember his time in the Cazenovia Community Theater fondly, and says he sees a lot of the same camaraderie as he did back then.
“It’s great getting to work with everyone, especially the kids,” said Theobald. “At the Manlius Fourth of July parade, the kids were all there singing in the parade and when they saw me they all said things like, ‘Hey Mr. Mayor,’ as they went by. It’s good to get to know the cast, everyone is so talented.”
The Town of Manlius Summer Musical has a history of bringing live entertainment to the area for four decades. Started in 1976 under the direction of Marshall Nye, the program has become on the the largest community theater productions in the Central New York area.
“Bye Bye Birdie” will be performed at 7 p.m. on Thursday July 20, Friday July 21 and Saturday July 22 at the Fayetteville-Manlius High School. For more information about the musical or to purchase tickets, go to manliusmusical.org.
I am a reporter for the Eagle Bulletin and Cazenovia Republican at Eagle News. I report on topics ranging from town and village government, business, news and features.
I am a 2014 graduate of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and have a degree in Journalism and a minor in Psychology.