The Not-So-Common Players are getting some pretty uncommon help with their summer production of “Bye Bye Birdie.”
Freddy Ramirez, who spent August of 2008 through Jan. 4 of this year on Broadway in the cast of “Grease,” is serving as the choreographer for the Clifton Park troupe’s production, set for seven performances on the outdoor stage at Clifton Common beginning today and running through July 19.
“Rehearsal has been going very well, and while it’s not the talent level you see in New York, we do have some very talented people working with this community theater group,” said Ramirez. “It’s not the same intensity I’m used to in New York, but I’m enjoying the teaching and helping them learn. It’s a lot of fun.”
Ramirez is a Bronx native who spent some time working with the Summer Stage program at the New York State Theatre Institute last year before landing his Broadway gig as a member of the “Grease” ensemble.
‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ by the Not-So-Common Players
WHERE: Clifton Common Stage, Vischer Ferry Road, Clifton Park
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday and July 16-19
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 371-6681 or visit www.cliftonpark.org/notsocommonplayers
He performed as a variety of different characters from August until the show closed on Jan. 4.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “Everybody in my profession strives to get to Broadway, and to get there was just amazing. It’s everything I dreamed of and then some.”
The money Ramirez earned from his “Grease” experience helped him purchase a house in Troy. A friend of his, Sean Carter, is directing “Bye Bye Birdie” for the Not-So-Common Players and asked him if he might lend a hand with the production.
“This is predominantly a singer’s show, but I’m trying to incorporate as much choreography as I can to help give the production some pizazz,” said Ramirez. “We have a large cast, but it’s a strong group that has done a lot of community theater in the area.”
While he now calls Troy home, he continues to travel to New York on a regular basis. “Every week, I’m back and forth, doing the New York auditions, living the dream,” he said. “Sometimes you have to wait a while to get another Broadway shot, but I’m working at it.”
For now, Ramirez will try to make this production of “Bye Bye Birdie” as entertaining as possible. The original production opened on Broadway in April of 1960 with Chita Rivera and Dick Van Dyke in the two lead roles. Both were nominated for a Tony and Van Dyke won playing Albert, the manager of Conrad Birdie, an Elvis Presley-like rock star who, like Presley, is about to be inducted into the U.S. Army. The show also won a Tony for Best Musical, and Gower Champion earned two Tonys for his direction and his choreography.
“There are so many big issues going on right now in the world we thought it’d be a good idea to stage something family- oriented that would really entertain people and take their minds off all the trouble,” said Carter.
“This is a great play for teens and for adults, and it’s also a great play for young people who might see it and want to get involved with community theater.”
“Bye Bye Birdie” is Carter’s debut as a director for the Not-So-Common Players. He most recently performed with the troupe as the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“I’ve done some directing with community theater in Waterford and Halfmoon, and I also did some when I was in college at SUNY-Purchase,” said Carter, a second-grade teacher in the Shenendehowa school district. “But I’ve worked with a lot of these people before and they are very talented. Most of them are repeat performers for the ‘Players,’ but we also have some newcomers.”
Adam Coons plays Albert in this production, while performing as Rosie is Christine Marcella. Also included in the cast are Matt Streifert as Conrad Birdie and Alana Sangiacomo as Kim. The show is being sponsored by the town of Clifton Park.
“This musical is just so much fun because it has very memorable songs and a story line every generation will recognize,” said Carter. “It’s about parents and teenagers who just don’t understand each other.”