Bye Bye Birdie | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Bye Bye Birdie

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Bye Bye Birdie, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Michael Stewart, Lee Adams, and Charles Strouse's loose retelling of Elvis Presley's last hurrah before enlisting in the army is now 40 years old but has aged gracefully. Peppered with humor and wry innuendo, it features at least one perfect song ("Kids") and a handful of absolutely great ones. And the story appeals more to the universal truths of intergenerational divide than to nostalgia for its own sake. Save for a somewhat muddy denouement, in which one pair of romantic leads outstrips another, it's an immaculate piece of theater.

Director Joe Leonardo largely plays by the book in this gem of a staging, but the production does feature all sorts of subtle enhancements. Thomas M. Ryan's open, expansive set ably signals the electrifying air of possibility in early-60s America, and Kenny Ingram's simple yet elegant choreography exploits the set's every crevice. Cheryl Avery does the freshest turn as bride-in-waiting Rosie, not only straddling the line between the character's awakening sexuality and girl-next-door sweetness but urging everyone around her to even greater heights.

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