MINT HILL – Young actors and singers at Spotlight Performing Arts Academy will take audience members on a musical voyage back in time this weekend, as the academy debuts the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.”
Show times are Friday, May 30, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 31, at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5 in advance or $7 at the door and are available for purchase online at www.spotlightacademyonline.com or by calling 704-281-8226. All performances will take place at Spotlight, 7714 Matthews-Mint Hill Road.
“Bye Bye Birdie” tells the story of Conrad Birdie, a 1950s rock-and-roll superstar who is drafted into the United States Army. The storyline is loosely based on the true story of Elvis Presley and his draft notice into the U.S. Army in 1957.
Spotlight’s production is a condensed version of the popular Broadway musical of the same name. The cast includes 13 middle- and high-school students from Mint Hill, Charlotte, Union County and beyond. Show director Amanda Bledsoe said the diversity of the cast is one of the things that’s made the production so dynamic.
“This cast is an interesting, great group,” Bledsoe said. “We have everyone from the cheerleader to the science (lover), and they all get along really well, which is nice to see.”
Spotlight began rehearsals for “Bye Bye Birdie” at the beginning of April, and the performers have rehearsed multiple times each week leading up to the show. But cast members not only have put in rehearsal time – they’ve been directly involved in putting together the costumes for the show, as well.
“A lot of things are coming from their houses,” Bledsoe said. “…Most of the kids just had stuff that worked out.”
Many of the cast members, such as Independence High School 10th-grader Jessica Peletier, agree the strongest and most enjoyable aspect of the show is the music. Jessica plays Kim MacAfee, a teenaged girl who is one of the leading female characters in the show. The songs Jessica performs have challenged her vocal skills and made her realize her singing ability is stronger than she originally thought.
“I really like the songs I do, because I’ve never really got to use my voice that way before,” she said. “My voice has grown from it, too, so it’s really helped me.”
The musical aspect of the show has created a whole new challenge for Peyton Figueroa, the Queen’s Grant High School sophomore who plays Albert Peterson in the show. Peyton admitted he doesn’t have the best singing skills and isn’t comfortable singing in front of people. But what originally seemed to be a detriment has turned out to be a plus when getting into character, he said, as Albert’s singing skills aren’t supposed to be great.
“Albert is a character – he’s a ladies’ man, thinks everybody likes him, thinks he can do all these things (when) he really can’t, in reality,” Peyton said. “… He thinks he can sing, but he really can’t.”
Though it’s been nerve-racking singing his two solos in front of people, Peyton said he’s enjoyed the challenge of trying something new and doing something he’s not necessarily comfortable with.
“That’s why I enjoy this show – because it’s outside of my box, outside of my comfort zone,” he said. There’s one of Albert’s character traits Peyton has no problem exhibiting. “As far as the ladies’ man thing goes, I’m a flirty person. I like to flirt, so I’m just being myself.”
Bledsoe said audience members who enjoy musicals should enjoy the singing and dancing in “Bye Bye Birdie.” And they can expect to see some talented kids, too.
“I’m amazed at how each kid has fallen into their role,” she said. “They fit their roles better than I could have hoped for when I cast them originally.”