Original Broadway Cast

Bye Bye Birdie [Original Broadway Cast Recording]

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With a run of 607 performances, 1960's Bye Bye Birdie was the first Broadway success for songwriters Charles Strouse (music) and Lee Adams (lyrics), and it also elevated Dick Van Dyke to stardom while consolidating the success of Chita Rivera, who was coming off a lengthy stint with West Side Story. Michael Stewart's libretto takes as its inspiration Elvis Presley's 1957 departure for the army at the height of his popularity, fictionalizing the event as a means of poking fun at rock & roll and its impact on American culture. The story itself is highly unlikely, focused as it is on Albert Peterson (Van Dyke), who, despite being both the manager and songwriter for pop star Conrad Birdie (Dick Gautier), somehow doesn't have enough money to marry his fiancé, Rose Grant (Rivera). When Birdie is drafted, Peterson conceives a publicity stunt in which Birdie will sing a new song, "One Last Kiss," and confer a last kiss on a devoted fan before entering the service. When the song becomes a hit, Peterson will have the money to quit the music business, get married, and fulfill his goal of becoming a school teacher. This ridiculous premise is enough to whisk the principals to middle America, where they encounter parents and teenagers at war over pop music, among other things. Though the show has been described as the first rock & roll musical, the authors clearly disdain the new genre. Birdie's songs, "Honestly Sincere," "One Last Kiss," and "A Lot of Livin' to Do" (the last a title blatantly copying Presley's 1957 recording "Got a Lot o' Livin' to Do"), are supposed to be as bad as the songwriters think rock to be. But, like the rest of the score, they remain amusing and enjoyable. (Ironically, "We Love You Conrad," a chant included in the "Overture," was adapted into "We Love You Beatles" and became a Top 40 hit in 1964, the only song in the score to make the singles charts.) "The Telephone Hour," a teenagers' roundelay on the joys of being "pinned"; "A Healthy, Normal, American Boy," a humorous defense of Birdie's wholesomeness; and "Spanish Rose," Rivera's showcase, all remain winning numbers. But the standards that emerged from the score were the ballad "Put on a Happy Face" and the parents' lament "Kids." Add it all up, and Bye Bye Birdie had a refreshing score full of tuneful, good-naturedly satiric songs. Conceivably, the casting could have been better: Rivera and Paul Lynde, who plays an exasperated father and takes the lead on "Kids," are outstanding; but Van Dyke and Gautier are both breathy, limited singers who don't get all they might out of their roles. Still, this Original Broadway Cast recording has not been bettered by subsequent versions (though Ann-Margret was breathtaking on the movie soundtrack). (The second CD reissue, released on May 30, 2000 contained a bonus track a performance of "Put on a Happy Face" by Charles Strouse.)

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
Bye, Bye Birdie, musical
1 2:40
2 2:52
3 3:02
4 2:32
5 3:19
6 3:54
7 2:46
8 3:23
9 2:03
10 1:34
11 1:55
12 2:53
13 1:30
14 2:49
15 1:10
16 3:22
17 3:47
18 2:32
blue highlight denotes track pick