FRANCONIA >> There’s a lot of singing and dancing in “Bye Bye Birdie,” but not all the action is on the stage.
There will also be a lot going on backstage and in other offstage places, including in the sound booth when Souderton Area High School performs the 1961 Best Musical Tony Award-winning play at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 5, 6 and 7, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 8.
“We have at least 16 microphones. We’re using all of them this year. It’s a big number,” said Liam West, a senior at Souderton Area High School who will be working the sound board for the shows. “It seems very overwhelming at first, but once you get down your cues and you know who gets what mic afterwards, switching packs and whatnot, it just flows.”
Jared Martin, another senior, who plays Mr. MacAfee, describes the show as “a fun romp through the 1950s and ’60s.”
“There’s comedy. There’s dancing. It’s quite a colorful show,” said Sophia Hradnansky, a sophomore and one of the co-stage managers.
More than 90 students, including those in the orchestra, are involved in putting on the musical, Liz McDonald, the show’s producer, said.
Senior Emma Ford, who started doing theater when she was in seventh grade and has continued performing both school and community theater since then, said this is the third time she’s been in “Bye Bye Birdie,” each time in a different role.
This time she plays Mae Peterson, who Ford described as “the definition of the overbearing mother-in-law and then some.”
Peterson is also “way too over-protective” of son Albert, who she calls “Sonny Boy,” Ford said.
The show revolves around Elvis-like singer Conrad Birdie having been drafted into the army and plans for a big sendoff with him kissing a girl picked at random in Sweet Apple, Ohio, as he sings before going off to join the army, Ford said.
“It doesn’t necessarily work out the way they want, but it works out well in the end,” she said.
Having been involved in theater productions since seventh grade, Ford said for a long time she thought about making it her career.
“When I first started visiting colleges, that was my mindset, either vocal performance or musical theater, and then I just changed my mind for a lot of reasons,” she said. “I basically decided, as much as I love it and as much as I want to continue it as a hobby, I don’t want it to be the way I earn money because I want it to continue being a passion and not a stresser.”
West said he started his involvement with the high school productions by doing lighting, then moved for his second show to working on the sound board.
“I enjoyed it more, and I started to get a passion for working with sound engineering,” he said.
He said he plans to study media and broadcasting in college and would like to work in theater production.
“It’s very fun. You get to know everybody really well. You get to make friends,” he said.
Hradnansky said last year when she was assistant stage manager was her first involvement in the theater productions.
“It’s a good opportunity to be a leader, and it’s a challenge,” she said. “There’s so much to think about backstage that it keeps your mind working.”
Theater or television production are among her possible careers, she said.
Hradnansky said she hadn’t heard of the show before it was announced as this year’s spring musical but then watched the movie and read the script to prepare for the SAHS production.
Martin said he had heard of the show but hadn’t seen it. When he started hearing the music, he recognized some of the songs although he hadn’t known those songs came from “Bye Bye Birdie,” he said.
This was the second year he was in the school’s musical; he also was in the fall play this year, he said.
Martin said he was on the basketball team in previous years, so he couldn’t be in the shows because of a scheduling conflict, but now has dropped basketball.
“Auditions were right before Thanksgiving, so it’s been a long process,” Martin said.
“We’ve been rehearsing for a couple months now,” he said. “It is a lot of work. A few times a week we all come in for about three hours at a time, but it’s a lot of fun; we all enjoy each other’s company, so it’s not too hard.”
Martin said he doesn’t plan to make a career in the theater but enjoys storytelling, which he will use in his plans to become a theme park engineer.
“Rather than doing it through a theater performance like this, I would channel that storytelling spirit in my career in theme parks,” he said.
Tickets for the shows are $10 each and can be purchased online at showtix4u.com or at the door.
“Come out and see the show. It’s a lot of fun,” Martin said.
This year, all the front of house activities, including the box office and sales of things such as candy and T-shirts, will be done by students, McDonald said. Attendees can also give cast and crew members a “kiss” by purchasing a Hershey Kiss and having it delivered, along with a note, she said.