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Fairmont students to offer ‘Bye Bye Birdie’

Fairmont High School students practice the scene “Telephone Hour” from the musical “Bye Bye Birdie” in the Performing Arts Center at Fairmont High School. The students will stage the musical next week at the school.

Fairmont High School is returning to the 1950s for its fall musical production, “Bye Bye Birdie.”

It kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday with a senior matinee and will play at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Performing Arts Center at Fairmont High School.

The director, Sara Gudahl, explained that the musical is set in the year 1958. She said it has been fun introducing students to the era.

“I’m most excited for the costumes and the singing and the dancing,” she said.

The idea to stage “Bye Bye Birdie” was suggested by orchestra teacher Katie Koenning, as it is one of her favorite productions.

Gudahl said that while many of the songs in “Bye Bye Birdie” are not as well known as in other shows, the songs are catchy and students quickly got into them.

Gudahl said that even painting the set was fun because of all of the bright colors. Bright colors and busy patterns are seen on the clothes cast members wear. The costumes include dresses with crinolines under them, to give them some bounce. Girls will wear gold jackets and poodle skirts while boys will wear suit coats in busy patterns.

“We re-use what we can but it hasn’t been easy to find ’50s circle skirts,” Gudahl said. “People have brought some in but anything that we don’t have goes into the budget and we’re careful with how we spend it.”

Students in grades 7-12 are in the musical. There are 60 cast members, 25 in the pit and 15 on the technical crew.

“Everybody got a role who wanted one. That’s our new commitment. If you want to be in it, we find a place for you,” Gudahl said.

While the show is predominantly comprised of girls, Gudahl said they have had more boys audition this year than previous years, with four in main roles.

Auditions took place during the first few weeks of school. Students have been practicing from 6:30-8:30 p.m. every weeknight, with the exception of Wednesdays.

“We knew that the PAC itself would be unusable due to the new floor, so we spent the first whole month of rehearsals in the choir room just working on little parts and pieces. We’ve only been in here a few weeks,” Gudahl said.

Not only does the PAC have a new stage, but there are more than 1,000 new seats.

Gudahl expressed thanks to the following individuals who have helped make the show possible: Mary Schmitt, set design; Katie Koenning, pit director; Courtney Steuber, choreographer; Molly Bleess, vocal director; Mark Hernes, technical; DeAnna Shaikoski, costumes; and the Fairmont Opera House, which has assisted with many things.

Tyson Geerdes, a senior who plays Albert in the musical, said, “The original intention was to have a smaller cast, but we had so many amazing auditions this year that we took everyone. I’m so grateful for all the individuals I get to work with who can sing and dance and know how to move.”

Tickets can be purchased at the door. Performances are free for students in grades K-12, $6 for adults and $5 for senior citizens.

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