“Bye Bye Birdie” cooperative play opens Friday

Andres Salazar in one of the lead roles as Conrad Birdie in the tri-school production of “Bye Bye Birdie” sings for the audience in a scene from the show that opens at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Onekama Cafetorium. tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased at the door. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

ONEKAMA — In every theatrical production, there is one defining moment where a director goes down a checklist to make sure everything is ready prior to the opening night curtain rising.

It is something teachers Amanda Harthun, Jackie Karnisz and Kathy Joseph have done several times this week as they prepare for the three-school production of “Bye Bye Birdie” that opens at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Onekama Cafetorium. The show will continue Saturday at the same time and again on Sunday at 2 p.m. Ticket prices are $8 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased at the school offices, or at the door.

The annual show is a collaboration of students, teachers, parents and volunteers from the Onekama, Bear Lake and Brethren school districts. It is a formula they have been using for the past seven years and is one that has produced great success.

Students are picking up additional responsibilities beyond acting on the stage this year.

The students are taking more of a leadership role in this one,” Karnisz said. “They are very organized as Amanda and Kathy have everything down to a system, so I am expecting a polished production. They are just an awesome group of kids this year.”

Harthun agreed that the assistance of students who have been in several previous shows has been essential to the success of this one.

“We have the largest cast ever, as there are 70-plus kids in this show,” said Harthun. “It is just a lot of kids want to get involved, but what is nice is we have a lot of kids that want to be on stage and an equal number of kids wanting to be backstage. That is really an asset, and they are making it fun.”

Harthun said what has made the cooperative play effort work so well is students from all three schools have bought into it. They are proving to be the driving force that keeps pushing the bar higher every year.

“There is so much excitement for this show and our kids are wanting more,” said Harthun. “There are things you don’t have to teach some of them because they know what to do.”

It shows how the students have grown in their theatrical skills is evident by the fact that students will be leading choreography this year. Harthun and Karnisz did a lot of the work in the past, but this year Emily Barnard and Kaylan Fitch took over a few numbers.

“They took a few songs last year and had a ball doing it,” said Harthun. “Emily and Kaylan wanted to make sure there were some good dance numbers and they really put in some strong numbers.”

Karnisz pointed out that those who attended previous performances will see some familiar faces on the stage, but “Bye Bye Birdie” will be loaded with new talent taking part in their first performance.

“Every year we get new ones, but this is a really polished group this year,” said Karnisz

Leading roles are held by Tucker Laws ( portraying Albert Peterson), Anna Brown (Kim MacAfee), Andres Salazar (Conrad Birdie), Alex Barto (Harry MacAfee), Kaylan Fitch, Jacob Fitch (Randolph MacAfee), Emily Barnard (Mae Peterson), Andrew Clarke (Hugo Peaabody), Louise Barnard (Ursula Merkle), Gerald Eipperle, Cheyenne Buckner (mayor’s wife), Brittany Trombley (Gloria Rasputin), William Sullivan (Harvey Johnson) and Kirsten Bowers (Mrs. Johnson).

The directors had the opportunity to get a good feel for what to expect on Wednesday morning during a dress rehearsal performance for students from all three schools. According to the directors, the cast and crew passed with flying colors and are ready for opening night.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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