But the show introduced Birdie and the electrified music he embodied only to renounce them. “Bye Bye Birdie” was always proudly old-fashioned at heart, promising that it was the happy book musical — and not rock ’n’ roll — that was here to stay.
This makes “Birdie” a particular challenge for those hoping to sell it to New York theatergoers who have since embraced “Hair,” “Rent,” “Spring Awakening” and even “Billy Elliot.” Send up “Birdie,” and you kill its melodic friendliness; play it straight, and it just looks quaint.
Meantime, Terry Teachout says there is just one liiiitle/huuuuge problem here:
Robert Longbottom's brisk staging and clever choreography flow together seamlessly. The quick-change space-age sets, designed by Andrew Jackness, look as though they'd been swiped from the warehouse of a late-'60s TV variety show. Jonathan Tunick's new orchestrations evoke Nelson Riddle and Count Basie with smoothly swinging exactitude. The costumes are colorful, the chorus fabulous, the pit band hip.
So what's the catch? Just this: Only one of the stars can sing.
And, after all the bashing from various critical corners....The dragon himself, John Simon, actually liked it.