‘Bye Bye Birdie’ performers charm and captivate Richmond Hill

The Holy Child Jesus Teen Drama Club’s performance of “Bye Bye Birdie” had audiences in Richmond Hill laughing, cheering and bopping in their seats in what was the group’s 29th summer performance.
“Our cast and crew has been working non-stop for six weeks to put on this show,” wrote Director Paul Morisi in the playbill. “We truly enjoy performing for you.”
Morisi made his directorial debut with the performances of “Bye Bye Birdie,” which ran from Thursday, August 14 to Sunday, August 17 at Monsignor Murray Auditorium in Richmond Hill. This was the third time the club performed the musical: it first ran in 1976 and then in 1985.
The play, which was made into a 1963 film starring Dick Van Dyke, follows the story of musical star Conrad Birdie, a jumpsuit-wearing Elvis Presley-like figure, who is sent to a small Ohio town to kiss his biggest fan before going off to the military.
“I loved the movie when I was a kid but I forgot about it,” said Kevin McAuley, 20, who played Birdie after the first night’s performance.
To play the thick sideburn-wearing lady-killer, McAuley said he watched the movie and clips of Elvis on YouTube. He added, “My mom was a big fan of Elvis.”
McAuley also works at Johnny Rockets, where he and his girlfriend, who also appeared in the show, won a national dance contest, he said.
His work paid off — his fancy footwork justified the piercing shrieks of the girls on stage.
Robert Ariza, 18, who played songwriter Albert Peterson; 17-year-old Kellie Alberici, who portrayed Rosie Alvarez; and a talented group of teens also joined McAuley on stage.
Ariza, who studied vocal music at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and has performed in many musicals and operas, delighted the crowd with his performance of the popular “Put on a Happy Face,” in which he carried every note and tapped every step.
The biggest surprise of the night, her co-stars admit, came with Alberici, who as Rosie sang many of the show’s songs. “I’ve never sung before in my entire life,” she said. “This year I discovered I could sing, but I always loved dancing and acting.”
Her co-stars voiced their praise. “I always really thought of Kellie as a dancer,” McAuley said. Ariza cut in, “She really came out of her shell this year.”
The Holy Child Jesus Teen Drama Club’s performance of “Bye Bye Birdie” provided a fun night of music, dancing and laughter from a hard-working group of local youth with a passion to perform.
The actors said they enjoyed the practices, which occurred Sunday through Thursday evenings, beginning in July.
McAuley attributed the success of the show and fun the actors had to Morisi. “He handled everything well,” he said. “Everything felt so comfortable. We were prepared.”

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