FORSYTH COUNTY-- The Forsyth Academy of Performing Arts held its opening night performance of “Bye Bye Birdie” on Friday with more than 50 area children and adults acting and singing in the classic musical.
The show, which continues through July 24, is directed by Leigh Ann Cannady, owner and artistic director of the performing arts center. The musical features a cast of all ages and is described as a family-friendly joyride through the 1950’s for audiences.
“I chose ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ because it involves so many kids,” Cannady said. “It’s fun for the adults to have all the energy of the kids and its fun for the kids to be onstage with grownups who have great experience. It’s really family-friendly, and it’s a fun, period-1950’s piece – everyone loves that time period.”
The musical tells the story of the Elvis-esque singer Conrad Birdie and his “One Last Kiss” contest that will select a random fan to receive Birdie’s last kiss before he is shipped off to join the Army. The fan selected is Ohio teen Kim McAfee, whose jealous boyfriend is none too happy about the contest.
The contest, which is to be televised via the Ed Sullivan show, also involves struggling songwriter Albert Peterson and his girlfriend Rosie. In the end, hilarity ensues and audiences are drawn into the time of jukeboxes and poodle skirts with classic, lighthearted drama and catchy tunes such as “Telephone Time.”
“This show is the epitome of classic musical theater,” said Jesse McWhorter, who plays Conrad Birdie in the show. “It’s got everything from a happy ending to songs that will be stuck in your head for the next two weeks to comedy. It’s really one of the shows that set the bar for musical theater moving forward.”
The show not only functions as clean, comedic entertainment for the whole family but also is an opportunity for Forsyth County actors and audiences alike to experience Cumming-area theater.
With the bustling arts scene of Atlanta just close enough to be convenient, Forsyth County theater and other arts can often be overlooked.
Cannady said “Bye Bye Birdie” brings attention to the large amount of local talent in Forsyth County and is a convenient way for residents to experience the arts close to home.
“I just think sometimes the community as a whole maybe doesn’t realize how much talent we have in the county,” Cannady said. “That’s why we do these shows in the summer – to have a great place for you to bring your family and come see a show. You don’t have to drive all the way to Atlanta. The tickets are reasonable, you can just come and spend a couple hours and enjoy some great theater. It’s a great sort of awareness builder for the community.”
The performing arts center, which Cannady said she began three years ago, is also busy building the Forsyth County arts scene with more than 300 students attending per week.
The school offers musical theater, voice, acting, piano and improv lessons and is a place where performers can gain skills and bond with other young artists. Through the school, Cannady said she wants to encourage students’ love of performing and their future goals in the arts.
“[Acting] has been a dream of mine since I was little,” said Emily Nester, a student and “Bye Bye Birdie” cast member. “I went to FAPA to do ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and I was like, ‘I have to do this.’ I got back into my passion of acting through FAPA, and Ms. Leigh Ann’s been really supportive.”
For “Bye Bye Birdie,” a cast was gathered that involves students from 15 different Forsyth County schools, including an actor from every high school in the area. A few Forsyth County school teachers also have roles in the show.
The relationships formed among the cast serve to create a unified, fun mood that emanates from the stage during the show. Audiences can’t help but feel joyful while watching this carefree classic.
“This show is just a great slice of Americana,” said Andrew Snider, an actor and instructor at the center who plays Albert Peterson in the show. “It’s a fun summer show, and what I would like the audience to leave with is that nice, refreshing outlook from this show that they can bring the family to and leave happy from.”
For more information on the show or to get tickets, visit forsythperforms.com.