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Bye Bye Birdie is a tribute to The Fifties in the same vein as Grease, though Bye Bye Birdie precedes Grease by about ten years. Inspired by the hoopla that surrounded Elvis Presley's induction into the U.S. Army, the story concerns Albert Peterson, a neurotic wannabe academic who is working as an agent for rock sensation (and troublemaker) Conrad Birdie in order to pay off his debts and return to college, and the scheme he cooks up with his secretary, Rosie Alvarez, to make a killing when Conrad is drafted into the army. Since this means he'll likely be "out of action" for at least two years, which—as we all know—might as well be forever in the entertainment business, Albert needs to cash in big and cash in now.
Albert's plan is really quite simple: All he has to do is write a hit song called "One Last Kiss" for Conrad to record, announce that Conrad is going to perform that song for just one of his millions of hysterical fangirls, giving her that "one last kiss" in the process. Then all he has to do is keep Conrad out of trouble long enough to get him into the Army and out of his hair and the money is bound to start rolling in. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? The lucky girl turns out to be Kim MacAfee, the president of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club in Sweet Apple, Ohio, who just happens to be going out with a nerdy boy named Hugo. Hilarity Ensues.
This musical contains examples of
- Adaptation Expansion: The TV movie adds in a few songs, including Mama's awesome Jewish Mother-esque lament.
- Affectionate Parody: The whole musical is an affectionate parody of The Fifties, focusing heavily on the affectionate.
- The All-American Boy: The number "A Healthy, Normal American Boy" describes Conrad Birdie as this in a series of Blatant Lies.
- Beta Couple: Hugo and Kim. So beta that they aren't in (or even mentioned) in the sequel, Bring Back Birdie.
- Blatant Lies: It depends on which production does it (as some might actually have Hugo saying the following in perfect clarity, just rage), but we get Hugo walking on the stage, having just tried to get into a bar. The adults ask him what he just drank. "...Milk."
- Book Ends: The movie begins with Kim singing the title song, lamenting how dull her life will become without Conrad Birdie. At the end, she sings a rewritten version, proclaiming that she's ready to get over Birdie.
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats: the Shriners.
- Captain Ersatz: Conrad to Elvis Presley.
- Disney Acid Sequence: The movie repurposed "Put On A Happy Face" from Albert comforting one of Birdie's fangirls to Albert entertaining Rosie. While he sings this version, he draws smiling faces in the air, and creates a duplicate Rosie to dance with.
- Fan Girl: Conrad has a million-strong army of them who scream bloody murder and/or faint whenever his name is spoken, pledge allegiance to Conrad Birdie, and incessantly sing the biggest Ear Worm of the show.
- Fat Girl: The main comedic point of one-off character Gloria Rasputin in some productions.
- The Fifties: Unabashedly shown through the nostalgic lens, though the musical was produced in 1960.
- Groupie Brigade
- "I Am" Song: "How Lovely to Be a Woman"
- "I Want" Song: "An English Teacher" and Rosie's reprise of "One Boy".
- Incessant Chorus: We love you Conrad, oh yes we do, we love you Conrad, and we'll be true..
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Conrad, though his heart of gold doesn't surface at all until the final scene.
- Midword Rhyme: "Put On a Happy Face"
Wipe off that gloomy mask of tragedy
- Movie Bonus Song: The title song. The TV movie adds "Talk To Me", "A Mother Doesn't Matter Anymore" and "A Giant Step", amongst others.
- My Beloved Smother: Albert's mother. Hoo, boy.
- Nerd: Harvey Johnson
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Conrad Birdie is defitiely not Elvis Presley. No siree.
- Noodle Incident:
Kim's Father: I never told you this, but one summer I worked with the circus... all those midgets... WILD!
- Odd Name Out: Hugo's friends are named Tommy, Eddie, Freddie, and Karl.
- Only Sane Man: Albert has to not only write Conrad's songs, but he's also in charge of Conrad's publicity—and Conrad. Rosie could also be considered to be an Only Sane Employee because not only does she do pretty much everything Albert does, but she also has to take care of and put up with Albert and his mother.
- Playing Gertrude: In the film Albert's mother is played by Maureen Stapleton, who was only a few months older than Dick Van Dyke.
- Politically-Correct History: The 1995 made-for-tv remake showed Asian and Black teens not only hanging with the White teens - they all appeared to live in the same neighborhood! (In real life, they would have been segregated.)
- Secondary Character Title
- Sidekick Song: Though it's not in the same vein as songs like "Under the Sea", "Kids" gives the parents in the show a chance to say what they think about postwar teen culture.
- Ur Example: One of the very earliest examples, if not the earliest, of the Nostalgic Fifties. When the musical was first performed, having teenage protagonists—even as secondary to the adult leads—was quite novel.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The play was inspired by the hysteria that accompanied Elvis Presley's induction into the U.S. Army. Screaming fangirls and all.