By Nikki Garrett Metzger
(Victorville) –“Bye Bye Birdie” at the High Desert Center for the Arts was so much fun! I didn’t really know what to expect when I stepped into the theater, but I was pleasantly surprised.
First to grab my attention was the live orchestra seated at the back of the stage. In the first scene I was immediately impressed with the singing talent of Rosie, played by Gini Watterson. She really lit up the stage with her powerful voice and commanding presence.
There were many strong performances in this musical. Bethany Richardson as lead Kim MacAfee was funny and great in her role as the “girl to be kissed.” Eddie Peterson as Harry MacAfee, Kim’s father at first seemed like one of the background players but really shined when it was his turn in the spotlight. He was really funny! Dave Mancha as Conrad Birdie didn’t have many speaking parts, but when he sang I could see him as the superstar that his character was supposed to be. The Youth Chorus was such a wonderful medley of voices.
Tony Winkel as Albert Peterson was fantastic. He impressed the audience in his heart felt song to Rosie “Talk to Me”. Backed up by “the guys in the bar” at first we were laughing at how silly it was for these tough bar guys to be singing this tender love song, but when it ended we were almost on our feet cheering at their harmony and Winkel’s strong vocals.
The two characters that really stood out were Gini Watterson as Rosie Alvarez and Maureen Carlstrom as Mae Peterson. Watterson must be a professional actor – her vocals were so strong, her stage presence was very natural. The program said that this was Watterson’s third performance with Hannett/Thorn Productions.
The audience was told after the show that this was Maureen Carlstrom’s first time on stage. If that is the case, then she is also a natural. In her performance as the doting yet over bearing mother to Albert Peterson, she transformed herself into that role. She was amazing!
This musical was funny and charming. The audience laughed out loud and cheered in delight after each musical number. The sets were well done, the music was great, and the costumes were good and appropriate for the time period. The acting was good and the singing was outstanding!
Saturday night’s show was the final performance for Bye Bye Birdie’s run at the High Desert Center for the Arts. At the end the director and producers presented flowers to several of the cast, including Watterson (Rosie), Carlstrom (Mae Peterson), and Richardson (Kim MacAfee). The cast and crew came out to the lobby afterward and greeted visitors, answered questions, and thanked visitors for coming to the show.
If you are looking for a night out, a great show, and live, local professional performances at an affordable price, the High Desert Center for the Arts is the place to go!
The High Desert Center for the Arts Stages weekend entertainment such as plays, concerts, variety shows, and more. Follow them on Facebook “High Desert Center for the Arts”. Theater is located at 15615 8TH Street in Victorville. Phone 760-243-7493.