The Start of a Summer Tradition

By Maegan Hafley. Published April 25, 2011

As the final stretch of school is dwindling down, students at McKendree begin to have summer fever. The sweetness of freedom is at their fingertips, and students are excited for three whole months of nothing but great weather and late nights. While the liberty of summer vacation is very enticing, some students are looking forward to summer for other reasons.


For the first time ever at the Hett, McKendree is putting on a production of a summer musical, Bye, Bye Birdie. A classical performance, Bye, Bye Birdie is “a satire done with the fondest affection,” according to Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc., a premier musical theatre licensing company. This musical tells the story of a rock and roll singer who is about to be inducted into the army. The original 1959 version of Bye, Bye Birdie won four Tony Awards and has also had a collective 607 performances on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre and 268 performances in London at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

While no full-scale musical has ever been performed at the Hett, according to Peter Palermo, producer of McKendree’s production of Bye, Bye Birdie, there have previously been concert versions of musicals. During concert versions, songs of a musical are sung, but the storyline of the musical is not played out.

Wanting to perform more than the songs of a musical, Palermo explained that he had discussed with Terence Mayhue, the percussion instructor here at McK, about doing a musical production before now. However, it was unclear which department (theatre or music) would lead the project and it stalled. Finally, Palermo decided “let’s just do it to do it.”

Palermo said that Bye, Bye Birdie “seemed like a good one to try” first for a couple of reasons. The cast of this particular musical is roughly equal in male to female roles, while also having a range in age of characters. The musical is set in the 60’s, so the costumes would not be overly hard to create. Bye, Bye Birdie would be challenging, but surely not impossible.

To solve the dilemma about the department situation, Palermo resolved to not make the musical through McKendree University. This means there is no course for this production and there is no grade. As a result, casting is not limited to McKendree students; people in the community and surrounding communities can participate as well. To get an array of people to audition, Palermo has hung up fliers from Belleville and Mascoutah to Highland and Breese.

Auditions were held on April 9th and 10th in Eisenmayer Auditorium at 3 p.m. Even though April is a busy month for people at McK, Palermo wanted this audition to be convenient for students. “This would give students an opportunity to try out while they are still here before they leave for summer.” In case some students weren’t able to make it to these auditions, Palermo states that another set of auditions might be planned for sometime in May.

When asked what he was looking for in the auditions, Palermo answered with “passion and enthusiasm.” Naturally, he will be looking for good performers, but Palermo wants these people to love what they are doing. He says that if a person has passion, “it doesn’t matter how much talent they have.” He adds that people at every skill level should audition; no previous training is necessary, just a love for the arts.

Bye, Bye Birdie will be performed on July the 22-24 and July 29-31. People should invite their friends and family to come and support these musicians and actors from the communities surrounding McKendree. Palermo is hoping that this will start an annual musical showing, and eventually even become part of McKendree’s curriculum. This way, students involved who attend McK will be able to get summer credit for their contribution.

This musical is the beginning of a great new tradition here at McKendree University! These new opportunities encourage people to become more involved with something they may have a passion for. The cast and crew will put in many hours of intense work to provide viewers with a great show and memories they will not forget.

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