Performances for Bye Bye Birdie with James Van Der Beek begin April 23, and run through April 28

By Dave Quinn
March 05, 2020 01:00 PM

James Van Der Beek will be putting on a happy face in Washington, D.C. this April.

The Dawson’s Creek alum, 42, will lead a new limited production of the beloved 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie at the famed John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

He’ll play Albert Peterson in the show, the neurotic New York–based songwriter who finds himself in panic when his client — rock and roll teen idol Conrad Birdie — is drafted into the Army.

American Housewife actress and Broadway vet Carly Hughes (Pippin) will star alongside Van Der Beek as Rose Grant, Peterson’s loyal (and frustrated) girlfriend. Four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein will play Albert’s overbearing mother, Mae Peterson.

The rest of the principle cast includes a sea of stage stars. Mallory Bechtel (Dear Evan Hansen) will take on the role of Kim MacAfee, a teenage girl in Sweet Apple, Ohio who wins a contest to appear with Birdie on The Ed Sullivan Show. Ann Harada (Avenue Q) and Reg Rogers (Tootsie) will step into the shoes of Kim’s overbearing parents, and Caitlin Kinnunen (The Prom), Kim’s hyperactive best friend Ursula Merkle.

Ensemble members include Susie Carroll, Micah Cook, David Aron Damane, Julian De Guzman, John Treacy Egan, Michael Hoey, Evan Kinnane, Liz McCartney, Nova Y. Payton, Trevor Michael Schmidt, Megan Sikora as Gloria Rasputin, Riza Takahashi, and Dori Waymer.

Additional casting, including the role of Birdie, will be announced shortly.

James Van Der Beek
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

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Bye Bye Birdie premiered on Broadway in 1960. The musical, with a book by Michael Stewart, was based on Elvis Presley’s headline-making draft notice into the Army in 1957. Songwriters Charles Strouse (music) and Lee Adams (lyrics) penned a series of catchy songs (and now musical theater staples), including “A Lot of Livin’ To Do,” “The Telephone Hour,” “One Boy,” “Kids,” “Honestly Sincere,” and “Put on a Happy Face.”

The show became a massive success, winning the Tony for best musical and spawning a London production, several stage revivals, and even a sequel musical. It’s one of the most produced musicals for high schools around the country, and was also adapted for the screen twice — once in a 1963 film (starring Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Paul Lynde, Bobby Rydell and Ann-Margret), and again in a 1995 television movie (starring Jason Alexander, Vanessa Williams, Tyne Daly, and George Wendt).

NBC had previously announced Bye Bye Birdie as one of its trademark live television musical productions, with Jennifer Lopez in the role of Rosie, but plans for that project were scrapped.

RELATED: Jennifer Lopez Teases NBC’s Next Live Musical Bye Bye Birdie

Anne-Margaret in the 1963 film Bye Bye Birdie
Everett

The Kennedy Center’s production of Bye Bye Birdie will be directed by Marc Bruni (Beautiful: The Carole King Story). Choreography comes from Denis Jones (Tootsie).

Bye Bye Birdie is presented as a part of Broadway Center Stage — a Kennedy Center–produced series of musicals in semi-staged concerts, conceived and executive produced by Jeffrey Finn.

Performances for Bye Bye Birdie begin April 23, and run through April 28. Tickets are now on sale.

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