For their ninth year of working together, Meg Nickerson and John Cameron are bringing the larger-than-life characters and smile-worthy songs of “Bye Bye Birdie” to the Belfast Area High School stage.

Nickerson and Cameron have built a reputation for putting on great musicals at BAHS each fall, having provided local audiences with shows such as “Oklahoma!,” “The Sound of Music,” “West Side Story” and “Grease.”

This year’s production, Nickerson said, promises to bring new talent to the leading lineup.

Jared Alley, who plays the Elvis Presley-inspired role of the crooning, swaggering Conrad Birdie, is making his debut as a leading man.

“This is the first show where he’s had a huge part on stage,” said Nickerson, noting that Alley has had a number of small roles and has previously served as stage manager.

Alley brings a smooth singing voice that will be featured throughout the show’s many musical numbers, Nickerson said, and is working to optimize his singing and dancing skills for his time in the spotlight.

Another newcomer to the starring lineup is Ilyse Laurel, who will portray Rosie Alvarez, the secretary and sweetheart of Conrad’s fast-talking talent agent, Albert Peterson (played by Nathan Howard).

Nickerson said Laurel is not new to the BAHS drama troupe, but this is the first time that her singing talents will be in the spotlight to such a degree.

Additionally, Nickerson said, more RSU 20 faculty members are hitting the stage than ever before, with seven teachers lending their voices to the production. Singing and dancing district staffers include BAHS social studies teacher Guy Hamlin, Troy Howard Middle School drama adviser and English teacher Jason Bannister and THMS librarian Sara Joy. Bannister is also working with student cast members on fine-tuning skills such as voice projection, Nickerson said.

In all, there are 28 members of the cast, and another 16 BAHS students providing live music from the pit. Two BAHS alumni, Tyler Johnstone and Cameron Grant, have volunteered their time to assist with the production, and Johnstone will also make brief appearances on stage.

“Bye Bye Birdie,” the 1961 Tony Award-winner for Best Musical, features familiar musical numbers such as “Put on a Happy Face,” “Spanish Rose,” and “A Lot of Livin’ To Do,” to name just a few.

The show, which is based on a book by Michael Stewart and features lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse, is a satirical take on American life in the late 1950s. The story line, prompted by news of Elvis Presley’s receiving a draft notice in 1957, focuses on Conrad (Alley), a fictional rock star who finds himself in a similar situation.

In response, Albert (Howard) and Rosie (Laurel) cook up a plan to have the rock star perform a new song before he ships out for military service. Soon, it is decided that Conrad will sing a new song that Albert has penned for the occasion titled “One Last Kiss.” To heighten the drama, Conrad will kiss one lucky girl from his fan club after performing the song live on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

The teenage girl chosen randomly from Conrad’s national fan club is Kim MacAfee from Sweet Apple, Ohio, who will be portrayed by Kasey Laveway. In Sweet Apple, Kim’s budding romance with Hugo Peabody (Steven Cook) is the talk of the town, and Kim is reveling in her new relationship.

But when Conrad and his crew arrive in Sweet Apple, Conrad’s presence and Kim’s apparent interest in the rock star prompt Hugo to jealousy. The MacAfee family is also a bit star-struck when Conrad comes to stay in their home, and Kim’s father, Harry MacAfee (Dominic Williams), is eventually overcome with the excitement of appearing on live television. In his portrayal of the initially reluctant, but soon spotlight-hungry dad, Williams lends hilarious flair to the role, bringing exaggerated facial expressions and hokey dance moves to the scene of Conrad’s television performance.

The combination of jealous lovers and live television sets the stage for a show that Nickerson hopes will provide plenty of laughs to those who come to see the production.

“It’s just great fun, and it’s upbeat,” said Nickerson.

The cast of the musical also includes Hannah Barrett, Brice Campbell, Liddy Clapp, Grace Davis, Kayla Davis, Anna MacGregor, Jennifer Marlow, Lauren Martin, Michelle McIntire, Emma Moesswilde, Clare Olson, Taylor Peabody, Kaylee Pickering, Taylor Stevens, Autumn Stupca, Windham Veevart, Kelly Walker, Julia Ward and John Williams.

Show dates and times are Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 5, 6, 12 and 13, at 7 p.m.; and Sundays, Nov. 7 and 14, at 3 p.m. All shows will take place in the gymnasium of BAHS, 98 Waldo Ave. Tickets are sold at the door: $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Opening night, Friday, Nov. 5, tickets will be half-price for students and seniors.

VillageSoup reporter Tanya Mitchell can be reached at 207-338-3333 or by e-mail to