Valley Theatre Company
“Bye Bye Birdie” director Kimberly Starr, right foreground, gives direction to her cast, the MacAfee family, center stage from left, Elizabeth Humberstad, Heidi Dagle, Doug Hansen and Finnegan Doherty, as musicians and other cast members await their cues. The musical will open April 27.
PROSSER Valley Theater Co. will cap its 2017-18 season with a first-ever partnership with Prosser High School Drama Club to present “Bye Bye Birdie” at the Princess Theatre, 1228 Meade Ave.
The play opens April 27 the first of five performances at Princess Theatre.
The show is a 1960s rock ‘n roll musical that tells the story of Conrad Birdie, an Elvis Presley-style singer about to be inducted into the army.
Director, Kimberly Starr calls it “the perfect play” because of the range of leading and supporting roles for adults and teens.
The story is about a final publicity stunt. His agent’s secretary decides that Conrad should bid a typical American teenage girl goodbye with an all-American kiss.
Kim MacAfee in Sweet Apple, Ohio wins the honor. The MacAfee household and the small town are turned upside down by all the attention.
Starr took charge of the Prosser Drama Club in 2015. She said students soon approached her about performing a musical.
Starr explained the club didn’t have the financial resources to support a musical production, but she and her husband, L.J. Da Corsi, brainstormed ways to make it happen and hit upon the idea to approach the theater company about a partnership that would showcase adult and youth actors.
“We took the idea to the Drama Club students, and they enthusiastically agreed to present the idea to VTC’s Board of Directors during the summer of 2016,” Starr said.
The board agreed to a partnership, as did Prosser School Board.
Auditions for the show generated considerable interest among club members, as well as non-member students who auditioned because they were specifically interested in participating in a musical, Starr said.
“Our hope is the experience is a positive one, and they might choose to audition for future PHS plays, even if they are not musicals,” Starr said.
In addition to participating as actors and musicians, students will be helping with technical elements of the show, including running the light and sound boards, running spotlights and moving sets, she said.
“Bye Bye Birdie” will be a substantial production, with 35 cast members and nearly as many production team members, orchestra and crew members.
“I have directed musicals before,” Starr said. “But this is the largest cast and most complicated one I have taken on. It is amazing that all of these individuals volunteer their time to make the play happen.”
Starr has directed two other musicals for the theater company, “Pirates of Penzance” and “She Loves Me.” She has also performed in several productions.
That experience is a factor in her ability to handle the production.
“Managing 65 people, each with their own personalities, needs, visions and talents is challenging,” Starr said. “I need to find the balance of allowing individuals to have their own ideas, while fitting under my artistic vision for the play.”
Developing the staging for the show had its own challenges, as well. Starr relied on her husband for help to design it.
“‘Bye Bye Birdie’ has 17 scenes that take place in 13 different locations,” Starr said. “Each of them needs its own set pieces.
“I am lucky L.J. has developed a passion for scene design. Together, we brainstormed many options over many months for how to make things work.”
Da Corsi, who is assistant director, set designer and set foreman, then created sketches, built models and drew plans during the last year in preparation for the show.
“I cannot imagine taking this on without his help,” Starr said.
Other key positions are filled by Producer Candace Andrews, assisted by Bethany Riddle, music director David Riddle, choral director Kathlyn Wolfe, choreographer Marcie Wall and stage manager Zoe Wilson.
“Working on this show has been a joy because when we decided we wanted to do it, we asked key people to assist in the technical areas,” Star said. “We had a dream team of folks who have reputations for being talented in their field, good to work with and following through.
“Putting the tech pieces together has been a breeze because of everyone’s positive attitude and incredible work ethic,” she said. “It takes a team, and we are only as strong as our weakest member. So far, we are strong as I could have ever hoped.”