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Chad Illa-Petersen in Bye Bye BirdieLaughs started from the first scene. Photos: Mike Louviere

“Bye Bye Birdie” at Orange Community Players, Inc. kicked off its two week run last night to an appreciative audience. There was laughter heard within the first few opening lines of Chad Illa-Peterson entering the stage. The crowd laughed and applauded throughout the entire performance. It was a great opening night

Chad played the part of Albert J. Peterson.

Playing opposite Chad was his real-life wife, Leyni Illa-Peterson as

Leyni and Chad Illa-Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie
Real-life husband and wife Leyni and Chad Illa-Petersen.

Rosie Alverez, secretary and longtime love interest of Albert J. Peterson.

They played well together drawing on their real-life relationship to bring forth the needed emotional push-pull of the characters.

You could actually see the pain and anguish of losing his love in Chad Illa-Petersen’s rendition of “Baby Talk to Me.”

Rosie looked on with adoring eyes at times, and then other times you could tell she was fed-up and done.

Judy Smith as Mama in Bye Bye Birdie
Judy Smith was great as Mama.

Another stand-out in the cast was Judy Smith as Mae “Mama” Petersen. To my understanding this was Smith’s first major role in a production. She has sung and danced in some programs, but never really acted. It’s never too late to become what you could have been. She belongs on the stage. Smith was delightful in her guilt bringing, overbearing mother role.

There were many great moments in the production, signature songs,

Gannon Miller as Conrad Birdie.
Gannon Miller as Conrad Birdie.

such as “Kids”, “A Lot of Livin,” and of course one of the most memorable ones of all time, “Put on a Happy Face” which was the dance highlight of the show. Leyni Illa-Petersen did a great job as choreographer for the production.

Jennifer Charles as Kim MacAfee.
Jennifer Charles as Kim MacAfee.

With any show there are always challenges, and this was no different. Two days before opening, they were battling serious technical issues with lighting and their computer, plus one of the secondary major characters, the role of Hugo Peabody, became open because the actor dropped from the cast.

Director Thomas May stepped flawlessly into the part, so the show could go on. Considering the obstacles they faced so close to the first curtain, they really stepped it up and put on a quality show.

May did an excellent job in casting “Bye Bye Birdie,” which is always

Put on a Happy Face from Bye Bye Birdie
Cast of Bye Bye Birdie

half the battle. Half of the cast is under 19. For many, it was their first time on the stage. Go enjoy the show. It is suitable for all ages. Tickets are only $15. There are five more evening

Bye Bye Birdie Cast
Bye Bye Birdie Cast

performances, Oct. 23-24, 29-31; and two matinees on Oct. 25 and Nov. 1. Call 409-882-9137 to reserve your seats for “Bye Bye Birdie” or purchase tickets online at The OCP Theater is located at 708 W. Division Ave., Orange, Texas.

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