Magazine article Newsweek

Bye Bye Birdie

Magazine article Newsweek

Bye Bye Birdie

Article excerpt

It's hard to say which is the bigger surprise: watching Jason Alexander--better known as loser George Costanza on "Seinfeld"--sing and dance with the grace of Gene Kelly. Or seeing him with hair. The follicles, which would rightly be the envy of many a hair-club member, are fake. But the sweet-voiced, light-footed charm Alexander sprinkles throughout the TV version of the musical Bye Bye Birdie is absolutely real. And he's far from the only reason to watch.

"Birdie" (ABC, Dec. 3, 8 p.m. EST) is the second Broadway-to-television adaptation of late, following Bette Midler in "Gypsy" last year. In a way it's an odd choice. Though it spawned a few semiclassic songs such as "Put on a Happy Face" and "A Lot of Livin' to Do," this was never a great show. Loosely inspired by Elvis's army hitch, the story centers on Albert (Alexander in the role originated by Dick Van Dyke), a second-rate talent manager who's about to lose his star, rock idol Conrad Birdie (Marc Kudisch), to the draft. With help from a secretary (Vanessa Williams) bucking to marry the boss, Albert concocts a final PR stunt: one last fan-club kiss with Birdie, to be televised live from apple-cheeked Sweet Apple, Ohio. Naturally, nothing works as it should--until the end, when it all works perfectly. Very sweet, very neat, very 1959.

It may be bubble gum, but the flavor lasts. The small screen somehow transforms this nostalgia trip, catching the kitsch and compressing it into pure entertainment. The producers had the good sense to leave the original dialogue and music largely intact (while adding two terrific new songs by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.