WHS News

A special look into the costuming in the WHS musical ‘Bye Bye Birdie’

Loving fans send Conrad Birdie (sophomore Kaden Callahan) off to Sweet Apple, Ohio to give one lucky fan one last kiss before he goes off to war. Head student costume director, junior Caitlin Kenney, and her partners had the challenge of turning high school students in 2017 into a 1950s heartthrob, middle aged adults, to obnoxious teens.

Members of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club welcome their hero to Sweet Apple, Ohio. The girls pledge their honor to Conrad. Fan club members include (from left) Margie Wren (senior Ashley Horn), Nancy Smithe (junior Caitlin Kenney), Deborah Sue Merkle (sophomore Annie Bryson), Kim Macafee (junior Torrie Shelly), Ursula Merkle (senior Abbey Tauchen), Helen Parr (junior Gaby Moore), and Alice Mayor (sophomore Adrienne Sauer). Also sharing in the moment with Conrad are Rose Alvarez (junior Maggie Likcani, behind Conrad) and Albert Peterson (senior Nolan Fontaine). Photos by Tim Richner.

By Abbey Tauchen

The Warrensburg High School departments of music and theater will present “Bye Bye Birdie,” Nov. 16-18 at 7 p.m. in the WHS lecture hall. Tickets are $5. The director is theater teacher Katie Miller, and the musical director is choir teacher Whitney Andersen. 

In “Bye Bye Birdie,” heartbreak has struck the hearts of every teenage girl in the country as rockstar Conrad Birdie has been drafted for the war. His manager and songwriter, Albert Peterson, and his long-time girlfriend and assistant, Rosie Alvarez, strike up a brilliant plan to let the heartthrob bid farewell to all of the hopeful “Mrs. Conrad Birdies” and to make a mighty nice profit in the process. Rosie prompts Albert to write a song titled “One Last Kiss.” Conrad, right before going off to war, will sing it to one lucky young lady in the Conrad Birdie Fan Club and kiss her right before he heroically heads off to war.

This lucky girl is Kim MacAfee, 15, of Sweet Apple, Ohio, who just got pinned to a sweet boy, Hugo. They are now going steady and the whole town knows it. Poor Hugo is left in the dust as his beloved steady is off to smooch another.

The whole town is roiling with excitement to meet Conrad Birdie. The streets are full of fainting women, shrieks and screams, and the constant ring of “We love you Conrad! Oh, yes we do!”

It is up to Rosie and Albert to send Conrad off to war with a positive image, from his most adoring fans to his least.

The process of hair, makeup and costuming in a show is vital to transforming the students of WHS into numerous characters. From a 1950s heartthrob, to middle-aged adults, to obnoxious teens, a show truly comes to life once its characters do – and hair, makeup, and costuming is how it all becomes possible.

Set in the 1950s, “Bye Bye Birdie” costumes call for an abundance of loud colors and patterns. It requires old-fashioned clothing, from saddle shoes to poodle skirts to ascots. As most of the characters are adoring teens of the wild Conrad Birdie, costume workers had to be tactful in finding fun costumes that are also functional for major dance numbers.

Costumes for the show came from pieces of WHS’s own costume collection or were brought in by various performers in the production.

Head student costume director Caitlin Kenney says she bases her ‘50s style clothing off photos or movies set in the 1950s she has watched in order to get the fun, carefree feel just right. Kenney explained her own personal process when deciding on a costume for a character.

“The first thing I do is look at the progression of the character,” she says. “Then I look at how they are being portrayed. I choose brighter colors for more confident characters and more subtle colors for quieter characters. I also look at skin tone, hair color and eye color to see what looks good on them.”
According to Kenney, older women’s hair will have curls and waves and be pinned back neatly. Teen girls will have various types of updos, such as high ponytails and pigtails, as well as curled hair that is left down. For men of all ages, hair will be slicked back like greasers.

Differing from the teen characters in “Bye Bye Birdie,” adults will wear rich, deep colors to make them look more mature. They will also receive smile lines and crow’s feet for an older looking effect.
Makeup for the teens will be simple and sweet. Teens will wear lighter, more fun colors to portray naive characters.

As no hair and makeup designers are specified for this show, performers often help each other out in the hours before showtime, perfecting each other’s 1950s look.
The final product of a show is nothing like the final moments backstage before the curtain drops. Getting ready for a show takes a lot of stamina in order to check every minute detail. Luckily, shows like WHS’s “Bye Bye Birdie” have backstage crews that help set props, do makeup and assist with costuming. From random clothing malfunctions, to mics getting caught, to red lipstick on white blouses, Kenney says a show onstage could not be possible without the backstage student run crew.

“It is a crazy mess of a rush,” Kenney explains, “hair or makeup happens first, and then carefully putting on the costume. The whole process can take up to 2½ hours.”
Kenney explains the pure joy in finally finding the perfect costume for an actor.

“When you give someone a costume that is just right, the look on their face is priceless.”

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