Western students bid 'Bye Bye Birdie'

Cary Ashby • Mar 14, 2019 at 3:00 PM

COLLINS — Western Reserve High School senior Damien Damron’s favorite part of playing a record label mogul are the jokes he makes.

Damron’s role in “Bye Bye Birdie” is Albert Peterson, who owns the music company that “owns” pop singer Conrad Birdie (sophomore Adam Hiles). Damron described Albert as anxious and someone who does things at the last minute.

“I like to be light-hearted. … Making people laugh is a really fun hobby,” said the son of Justin and Shannon, who doesn’t particularly enjoy serious roles. “I find those really hard to pull off personally.”

Damron’s most challenging part of properly doing comedy is telling a joke that everyone can understand.

“I hope when I tell these lines as Albert, it hits the right chord with everybody. Some of the jokes are really funny; it takes a little bit of thinking to get them. Some of the time you have to go back into the era,” he said.

Western’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie” will be March 29 through 31. The cast also includes middle-school students.

In the musical, the U.S. Army recently drafted Conrad, an Elvis-like character.

“Albert’s company owns Conrad, but they are $50,000 in debt because they can’t pay his guarantee,” Damron said. “Albert is freaking out because he doesn’t know what he’s going to do because his company is going underground. All of his money comes from Conrad.”

Senior Alex Jones plays Rose Alvarez, Albert’s love interest.

With the release of Conrad’s latest big hit “One Last Kiss,” Rose and Albert send the singer to kiss one of his fans, Kim MacAfee (sophomore Brooklyn Kurdinat), whose name was chosen at random. Much of the musical is set in Sweet Apple, Ohio.

“However, Kim just got a boyfriend,” said Jones, the daughter of Toni Slanczka.

When asked to describe Conrad, she said he’s “way out there,” and is “very sexual,” especially when he shakes his hips, similar to an early controversy surrounding Elvis Presley.

“He’s kind of a sleaze; he likes to sleep around,” Jones added, referring to Conrad.

Jones, who played Lucy last year in the Western production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” said that role taught her that “being dramatic is the best way to go.”

“Rose is also dramatic,” she said. “She is the Spanish woman who is ready to take the world by storm.”

Playing Rose means Jones is in a few sultry scenes. The teenager said she tries to bring “a lot of body positivity” to those moments that put her out of her comfort zone.

“It’s not about being uncomfortable with the people; it’s about being comfortable with the way you look doing it,” she added.

Kurdinat plays Kim.

“She’s like the all-American girl — very bratty, self-entitled teenager,” said the daughter of Josh Kurdinat and Nicole Kurdinat, who also described her character as “a crazy fangirl.”

To get the proper mindset, Brooklyn Kurdinat said she had to think of Conrad as her favorite celebrity. She equated Kim and other girls’ reactions to the singer as the mania surrounding Elvis and The Beatles.

“I wanted (to play) Kim. I’ve been the lead in six plays at Curtain Call; I wanted to try something different,” Kurdinat said. “It’s a different experience, but very fun.”

Sophomore Aidan Graham plays Kim’s “steady,” the geeky Hugo, who is extremely jealous of Conrad.

“There’s a scene when (Hugo) wants to get drunk to drink away his feelings. He drinks milk and thinks he’s drunk,” Kurdinat said, chuckling about the scene.

One of the big moments in the musical happens on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

“Conrad’s just about to give Kim her kiss and Hugo storms on the stage and knocks Conrad out cold,” Damron said. “So then Kim and Conrad run away together. The town’s all in an uproar because Conrad has thrown all of their teenage kids into disarray. The parents are all worried that Conrad is going to make their kids criminals; they just want him gone.

“The first act is more about setting up sending Conrad to Sweet Apple and Kim realizing how she is going to have to balance (her life),” said Damron, who believes Albert and Rose don’t realize their love “was meant to be” until nearly the end of the musical.

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