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Wednesday, November 22 News

New Canaan High School stages ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ for the first time

NEW CANAAN — The tale of popular teen idols appealing to their fans is not a new one. However, “Bye Bye Birdie,” a musical about a rock ‘n’ roll star preparing his last hurrah after being drafted into the Army is new to New Canaan High School.

Despite the musical being a regular on the high school circuit, Dee Alexander, the drama coordinator at New Canaan High School, said this is the first time the show is being performed there. It will be put on by the underclassmen for their fall musical.

“It’s never been done at New Canaan ever,” she said. “This was the perfect vehicle for this particular set of ninth- and 10th-graders. They fit into the roles perfectly.”

The show challenges the performers in subtle ways.

Mallory Bennhoff, a sophomore, plays Kim MacAfee, the teenage girl who wins “one last kiss” from superstar Conrad Birdie. MacAfee is supposed to be a 15-year-old who tries to put on a mature air, especially after she’s chosen to kiss her idol. The role requires 16-year-old Bennhoff to play a character younger than her who is supposed to be trying to act older.

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THE CAST

Albert Peterson — Alessio Pantaleo

Rosie Alvarez — Devin Findlay

Mr. Harry MacAfee — William Dantini

Mrs. Doris MacAfee — Jacqueline Banford

Kim MacAfee — Mallory Bennoff

Mrs. Mae Peterson — Ava Sabloff

Conrad Birdie — Ben Dooley

Hugo Peabody — William Haddad

Gloria Rasputin — Helen Culpepper

“She’s really rooted and knows what she believes,” Bennhoff said. “She thinks she’s mature even though she’s 15. It’s hard to play...because she’s a year younger than me but is supposed to be portrayed by someone young (trying to exaggerage) her age.”

To get into character, Bennhoff said she tries to sing in a higher pitch and act shy and flirty.

“She plays herself as someone more mature and deserves the kiss from Conrad even though she was chosen by chance,” she said. “You see at the end how she goes back to who she was at the start of the show.”

The other actors try to incorporate similar quirks into their characters.

Sophomore Ben Dooley, 15, who plays Conrad Birdie, said he studied videos of Elvis Presley on Youtube to incorporate the rock star’s poses and moves into his performance. Meanwhile 15-year-old Devin Findlay, a sophomore playing secretary Rosie Alvarez, said she uses a lot of crossed arms and hands on hips to relay how frustrated her character is with her boyfriend, Birdie’s manager, Albert Peterson.

Alessio Pantaleo, the sophomore who plays Albert, said he portrays his character with a nervous “mama’s boy” nature by constantly adjusting his suit throughout the show. He also captures his character’s passive nature by staying still, letting the action happen around him.

“My character is a bit of a baby,” the 15-year-old said. “He’s grown up around his mom (who was) catering to his every need. His mom is his only and best friend. He’s very used to having everything done for him. (His suit) is his wall of defense. It’s his persona to look big and strong.”

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“Bye Bye Birdie” is being presented at New Canaan High School at 11 Farm Road on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $18. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit newcanaanhighschool

theatre.com.

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