Local students talk about their experiences with this year's All-City Musical 'Bye Bye Birdie'

by Kristen Tomins | Reporter Published:

Being the only middle school student among a large high school cast for Akron Civic Theatre's third annual All-City Musical was intimidating to Gerard Berroteran at first, but that didn't stop him from wanting to showcase his talent in this year's show, "Bye Bye Birdie."

Berroteran is part of a cast, crew and orchestra made up of more than 70 students from local Summit County schools, including Akron School for the Arts/Firestone, Ellet, Akron Early College, Our Lady of The Elms High School, Archbishop Hoban High School, Hudson High School, St. Vincent/St. Mary High School, Revere High School, Copley High School, Kenmore High School, Norton High School, Wadsworth High School, Woodridge High School, and Stow High School.

The 1963 playwright, originally written by Michael Stewart, tells the story of famous rock and roll singer, Conrad Birdie (played by Brandon Henderson) , who is drafted into the army, sending a wave of shock and devastation to his fans across the country. Birdie's manager Albert Peterson (played by Brandon Kline) organizes a publicity stunt in which Birdie will kiss one fan for the world to see before he leaves, sending the town of Sweet Apple, Ohio into chaos when they learn the selected fan resides in their town.

Berroteran, 14, attends Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts and resides in Silver Lake. This is his first time being involved in the All-City Musical.

"I'm part of the ensemble for the show, so I do a lot of singing and dancing," said Berroteran. "I'm enjoying it so far; I like being in the spotlight and being able to show off my talent."

The musical itself features many classic musical numbers, including "Put on a Happy Face," "The Telephone Hour," and one of Berroteran's favorites, "A Lot of Livin' to Do."

Berroteran will be going into eighth grade this fall, but plans to continue his involvement in theater through high school.

"I was nervous at first," he said in regards to being the only middle school cast member. "But it's been nice to meet people from other schools and hear about high school before I get there."

Brandon Henderson, 17, of Cuyahoga Falls describes his lead role as Conrad Birdie as different than any other role he's had before.

"It's different playing a celebrity," he said. "I have to act cool and kind of sexy on stage, and I'm used to playing nerdy characters in the past."

Henderson said there is more singing than dancing that comes with his role, but he said he is enjoying the challenge.

"This role has allowed me to push myself to see what I can really do," said Henderson.

This is his first and last year being a part of the All-City Musical, as he is a recent graduate of Woodridge High School and will be attending Point Park University in Pittsburgh this fall. He plans to major in musical theatre.

Henderson said he, too, enjoys the songs that are featured in the musical, but also likes working closely with the rest of the cast.

"We all push each other to do better and improve in every rehearsal," he said. "Even though the majority of us are all in high school, this is probably the most professional cast I've worked with; everyone is extremely talented."

Director Mark Zimmerman said he has enjoyed working on this particular play because of the humor it offers, as well as the cast that was selected.

"["Bye Bye Birdie"] takes place in a time period that [the students] don't have too much knowledge of, so watching them figure out their characters and tap into the humor of this piece has been a fun process," he said.

Zimmerman said "Bye Bye Birdie" is a more traditional and classical piece, but also provided opportunity for exciting song, and dance numbers.

Although scheduling and balancing rehearsal time with school work has been the biggest challenge for students to cope with, Zimmerman said "the students are all very dedicated to both school and preparing for the show."

Performances for "Bye Bye Birdie" are June 14 at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., and June 15 at 2:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $25, $20 and $10, and can be purchased at the Akron Civic Theatre Box Office by calling 330-253-2488 or online at www.akroncivic.com.

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