Bye Bye Birdie a hit: inside Squabbalogic’s Mystery Musical!

We waited in anticipation for Squabbalogic’s first “Mystery Musical” and now the cat’s out of the bag, we wanted to share as much about it as we could!

The first of Squabbalogic’s new fundraising initiative was held at the Reginald Theatre at Sydney’s Seymour Centre for two shows on Saturday 24 January. It was a great concept: if Squabbalogic could sell out a matinee and evening show at the Reg, they would present a staged reading of a musical – only we’d never know what it was until we sat down and it began. Who could resist that?! The sessions sold out and the show was on.

Adele Parkinson (Kim), Jessica James-Moody (Ursula) and Company. Photo by Amelia Burns
Adele Parkinson (Kim), Jessica James-Moody (Ursula) and Company. Photo by Amelia Burns

In the program notes, Team Squabb explained that “There are dozens of classic shows we’ve wanted to produce but haven’t fit our brief, and we’ve been talking about concerts and staged readings since Squabbalogic’s inception. For a few years now we’ve also been toying with the concept of a kind of musical theatre blind date…”

So on with the fundraising! The cast was only let in on the show secret 18 days before it all happened in front of an audience, but it was an instant success.

At the evening show, Squabbalogic Artistic Director Jay James-Moody (fresh off his Sydney Theatre Awards wins for The Drowsy Chaperone) announced that the Mystery Musical had raised $10,000 for the company, all of which will go towards producing their next production, Man of La Mancha, starring Tony Sheldon and Marika Aubrey.

10801641_543997552407925_6538030449687912581_nAnd as the ensemble burst onto the stage singing “We love you Conrad/Oh yes we do”, the penny dropped and the audience laughed and cheered with surprise: it was Bye Bye Birdie!

Bye Bye Birdie debuted in 1960 as a satire on the American Teen. Featuring songs like “Put on a Happy Face”, “Kids”, and “A Lot of Livin’ to Do”, it’s the story of Albert Peterson, a would-be English Teacher who more or less fell into the music biz, managing Conrad Birdie, the star teen girls love and their mothers would probably hate. He’s drafted, and before he goes to war (to get Albert safely debt-free back to college and out of music) he has one last song to release – “One Last Kiss” – which he’ll promote by having Conrad kiss a member  of the Conrad Birdie fan club, Kim Macafee.

But Kim just started going steady with Hugo Peabody, so she wants to resign from the club, and Albert has to tell his mother Mae he’s dissolving their company but he’s terrified, and if he doesn’t pull any of this off then he’ll never marry his secretary Rosie, who has been waiting for him to get his life on track enough to love her for eight years. And how is the tiny town of Sweet Apple, Ohio, going to handle having Conrad Birdie, who makes Justin Bieber look like an angel, in town?

Directed by James-Moody with the classic Squabb style: a knowing smile, a twinkle in the eye, a firm sense of modern comedy and classical musical theatre staging, the show was a barrel of laughs and a whole lot of fun, scored with just a piano, played by Musical Director Hayden Barltrop.

Rob Johnson (Hugo), Adele Parkinson (Kim). Photo by Amelia Burns.
Rob Johnson (Hugo), Adele Parkinson (Kim). Photo by Amelia Burns.

The cast included James-Moody (Albert Peterson), Josie Lane (Rose Alvarez), Mikey Hart (Conrad Birdie), Nancye Hayes (Mrs Mae Peterson), Adele Parkinson (Kim Macafee), Rob Johnson (Hugo Peabody), Rowan Witt (Randolph Macafee), Garry Scale (Mr Harry Macafee), Michele Lansdown (Mrs Doris Macafee), Jamie Leigh Johnson (Gloria Rasputin/Reporter), Jessica James-Moody (Ursula Merkle), Blake Erickson (Mayor/Ed Sullivan/Maude), and Johanna Allen (Mayor’s Wife/Mrs Merkle/Reporter).

In the ensemble, consisting of students and graduates of the Australian Institute of Music: Prue Borg, Anna Canillas, Sophy Carol, Doron Chester, Dave Collins, Tim Love, Claire Mitchell, Alexander Morgan, Alex Jeans, Perri Rugg, Julianne Sisinni, Kayla Maree Spiteri, Erin Waller, Romy Watson, and Jessica Whitfield.

Check out the storify below for more highlights, excitement and action from (the first) Squabbalogic Mystery Musical! Can we do it again soon, guys?


Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and was the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *