Theatre / Bye Bye Birdie

"We love you Conrad, oh yes we do
We love you Conrad, and we'll be true
When you're not near us, we're blue
Oh Conrad, we love you."

Bye Bye Birdie is a 1960 comedy musical inspired by the hoopla that surrounded Elvis Presley's induction into the U.S. Army. The story concerns Albert Peterson, a neurotic wannabe academic who is working as an agent for rock sensation (and troublemaker) Conrad Birdie in order to pay off his debts and return to college, and the scheme he cooks up with his secretary, Rosie Alvarez, to make a killing when Conrad is drafted into the army. Since this means he'll likely be "out of action" for at least two years, which—as we all know—might as well be forever in the entertainment business, Albert needs to cash in big and cash in now.

Albert's plan is really quite simple: All he has to do is write a hit song called "One Last Kiss" for Conrad to record, announce that Conrad is going to perform that song for just one of his millions of hysterical fangirls, giving her that "one last kiss" in the process. Then all he has to do is keep Conrad out of trouble long enough to get him into the Army and out of his hair and the money is bound to start rolling in. What could possibly go wrong? The lucky girl turns out to be Kim MacAfee, the president of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club in Sweet Apple, Ohio, who just happens to be going out with a nerdy boy named Hugo. Hilarity Ensues.

Bye Bye Birdie was most successfully adapted as a 1963 film starring Dick Van Dyke as Albert (reprising his original Broadway role), Janet Leigh as Rosie, and Ann-Margret as Kim. A TV movie version was made in 1995 with Jason Alexander as Albert, Vanessa Williams as Rosie, and Chynna Phillips as Kim. NBC will air a live performance in December 2018, with Jennifer Lopez as Rosie.

This musical contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The TV movie adds in a few songs, including Mama's awesome Jewish Mother-esque lament.
  • Affectionate Parody: The whole musical takes jabs at the U.S. music industry and teen sensations.
  • Anti-Climax: The kiss between Kim and Conrad in the movie. It's been built up to for the whole film, but just when it's about to happen, Hugo punches Conrad in the jaw on live television and he is never seen again
  • As Himself: Ed Sullivan in the film.
  • The All-American Boy: The number "A Healthy, Normal American Boy" describes Conrad Birdie as this in a series of Blatant Lies.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Kim dons a spectacular ruffled crop top in the movie.
  • Beta Couple: Hugo and Kim. So beta that they aren't in (or even mentioned) in the sequel, Bring Back Birdie.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • It depends on which production does it (as some might actually have Hugo saying the following in perfect clarity, just rage), but we get Hugo walking on the stage, having just tried to get into a bar. The adults ask him what he just drank. "...Milk."
    • Pretty much every word spoken in "A Healthy, Normal American Boy".
  • Book Ends: The movie begins with Kim singing the title song, lamenting how dull her life will become without Conrad Birdie. At the end, she sings a rewritten version, proclaiming that she's ready to get over Birdie.
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: the Shriners.
  • Brown Note: The presence, or even the mere thought, of Conrad Birdie has some pretty... interesting effects on nearby fangirls, including spontaneous screaming, uncontrollable gyrating, twitching, and unconsciousness. It's even implied that the military wants to weaponize him in this way.
  • Captain Ersatz: Conrad Birdie (although his name is a play on Conway Twitty) to Elvis Presley.
  • Cutesy Name Town: Sweet Apple. It's even lampshaded by Rosie when she picks Kim's name out of the Birdie fan file.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The movie repurposed "Put on a Happy Face" from Albert comforting one of Birdie's fangirls to Albert entertaining Rosie. While he sings this version, he draws smiling faces in the air, and creates a duplicate Rosie to dance with.
  • Fangirl: Conrad has a million-strong army of them who scream bloody murder and/or faint whenever his name is spoken, pledge allegiance to Conrad Birdie, and incessantly sing the biggest Ear Worm of the show.
  • Fat Girl: The main comedic point of one-off character Gloria Rasputin in some productions.
  • The '50s: Written in 1960, which was still in the cultural decade of the 50's. So, it's more of affectionate parody of teen superstars and the music industry at this point.
  • First-Name Basis: Kim refers to her parents by their first names, Harry and Doris.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Hugo isn't exactly pleased at the idea of a superstar taking his girlfriend's first kiss.
  • Groupie Brigade
  • Hypocritical Humor: Kim's father strongly disapproves of his daughter fawning over a celebrity. When his family gets to be on the Ed Sullivan show, he sings a song revering Ed that resembles a choral hymn.
  • "I Am" Song: "How Lovely to Be a Woman"
  • "I Want" Song: "An English Teacher" and Rosie's reprise of "One Boy".
  • Incessant Chorus: We love you Conrad, oh yes we do, we love you Conrad, and we'll be true..
  • Ironic Echo: In the film, when Kim sings the title song at the beginning, she's an image of the typical teenage fangirl. At the end, when she sings the reprise, she's a wiser, more mature woman.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Conrad, though his heart of gold doesn't surface at all until the final scene.
  • Lingerie Scene: Rosie gets two in the film. One in a bra, and another in a very skimpy nightie.
  • Logo Joke: In the Columbia Pictures movie, some animated red flames jump out of the lady's torch and form the title.
  • Midword Rhyme: "Put On a Happy Face"
    Wipe off that gloomy mask of tragedy
    It's not your style
    You'll look so good that you'll be glad ya de-
    cided to smile
  • Missing Trailer Scene: The trailer for the movie shows Ann-Margret singing the title song against a background made up of newspapers announcing Birdie's drafting. Since the director did not have enough money to perfect this effect, the movie was ultimately released with the blue screen behind Ann-Margret still visible in blue.
  • Movie Bonus Song: The title song. The TV movie adds "A Mother Doesn't Matter Anymore" and "A Giant Step", amongst others.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Kim and Rosie in the movie.
  • My Beloved Smother: Albert's mother. Hoo, boy.
  • Nerd: Harvey Johnson
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Conrad Birdie is definitely not Elvis Presley. No siree.
  • Noodle Incident:
    Kim's Father: I never told you this, but one summer I worked with the circus... all those midgets... WILD!
  • Odd Name Out: Hugo's friends are named Tommy, Eddie, Freddie, and Karl.
  • Only Sane Man: Albert has to not only write Conrad's songs, but he's also in charge of Conrad's publicity—and Conrad. Rosie could also be considered to be an Only Sane Employee because not only does she do pretty much everything Albert does, but she also has to take care of and put up with Albert and his mother.
  • Playing Gertrude: In the film Albert's mother is played by Maureen Stapleton, who was only a few months older than Dick Van Dyke.
  • Politically Correct History: The 1995 made-for-tv remake showed Asian and Black teens not only hanging with the White teens - they all appeared to live in the same neighborhood! (In real life, they would have been segregated.)
  • Product Placement: "One Boy" lists drinking Coke as one of the activities Kim suggests to Hugo that they do together. It also gets some visual plugs in the movie.
  • Pubescent Braces: The song "How Lovely to Be A Woman:''
    When you're a skinny child of fifteen, wired with braces from ear to ear,
    You doubt that you will ever be appealing.
    Then Hallelujah! You are sixteen and the braces disappear,
    And your skin is smooth and clear, and you have that happy grown-up female feeling.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The play was inspired by the hysteria that accompanied Elvis Presley's induction into the U.S. Army. Screaming fangirls and all.
  • Role Reprisal: For the 1963 movie, Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde again played Albert Peterson and Harry MacAfee, whom they both originated on Broadway.
  • Secondary Character Title
  • Sidekick Song: Though it's not in the same vein as songs like "Under the Sea", "Kids" gives the parents in the show a chance to say what they think about postwar teen culture.
  • Spicy Latina: Rosie.
  • To the Tune of...: Harvey's refrain from "The Telephone Hour" ("Hello, Mister Henkel/This is Harvey Johnson/CAN I TALK to Penelope Ann?") has a similar melody to Robert Schumann's Arabeske in C major, Op. 18 (compare them at 1:28 here and at 0:53 here).
  • Ur-Example: When the musical was first performed, having teenage protagonists—even as secondary to the adult leads—was quite novel.
  • Where Did We Go Wrong?: Played for laughs with the "Kids" song.