Artists - Bye Bye Birdie 

Artist Biography

“Bye Bye Birdie” is a classic musical that has left a lasting mark on the world of entertainment since its inception. With its catchy tunes and memorable characters, the musical has captivated audiences across generations. 

“Bye Bye Birdie” took flight on Broadway in 1960, marking the collaboration of an exceptional creative team. The musical was inspired by the real-life phenomenon of Elvis Presley’s draft into the army in 1957, leaving behind a legion of heartbroken teenage fans. The show was directed and choreographed by the legendary, Gower Champion and featured actors such as Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde, Dick Gautier, and Kay Medford. 

The screenplay revolves around, Conrad Birdie, who, after being drafted into the army, plans to give a farewell kiss to a lucky fan during his upcoming performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The chosen fan, Kim MacAfee, and her small-town community go into a frenzy as they prepare for the big event. The story unfolds with humor, romance, and chaos, culminating in Conrad’s televised appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, creating a memorable and entertaining spectacle.

The musical ran for an impressive 607 performances, earning four Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The infectious tunes “Put on a Happy Face” and “One Last Kiss” became instant classics, solidifying the musical’s place in Broadway history.

Shortly after the Broadway musical graced the stage, several original cast members took their talents to The Ed Sullivan Show, presenting some of the iconic songs from the play. In June 1960, Paul Lynde and the original “Bye Bye Birdie” cast delivered a performance of “We Love You Conrad” and “Hymn For A Sunday Evening.” The segment even featured a scene reenactment from the production itself.

Later, in November 1960, two of the plays leading stars, Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera, also took the Sullivan stage and performed songs from the soundtrack on the same episode. Dick Van Dyke enchanted the audience with renditions of “We Love You Conrad” and “Put On A Happy Face,” accompanied by enthusiastic Conrad Birdie fan girls. Chita Rivera showcased her vocal prowess with a performance of “Spanish Rose,” the same song she had become known for during her time on the Broadway stage.

The success of “Bye Bye Birdie” naturally led to a film adaptation. In 1963, Columbia Pictures brought the musical to the silver screen, with George Sidney directing and much of the original Broadway cast reprising their roles. The film also introduced some new additions such as Ann-Margret, Jesse Pearson, and Ed Sullivan who portrayed, well, Ed Sullivan. The film’s vibrant cinematography and lively choreography contributed to its commercial success, making it a hit with audiences worldwide.

Just a month after the film’s release, one of the stars from the movie, Ann-Margret, went from the screen to the Sullivan stage and performed the theme song, “Bye Bye Birdie”, which was the same song she sang in the film’s opening credit sequence. Other stars that performed “Bye Bye Birdie” covers include Johnny Mathis, Gary Lewis and The Playboys, Abbe Lane, Totie Fields, Teresa Brewer, and many more. 

“Bye Bye Birdie” has stood the test of time, remaining a beloved and frequently performed musical in community theaters and schools. Its exploration of teenage culture, celebrity obsession, and the challenges of growing up continues to resonate with audiences. The enduring appeal of “Bye Bye Birdie” lies in its timeless themes, memorable characters, and the magic created by the talented individuals who brought it to life both on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Check out our Bye Bye Birdie playlist to see full performances from The Ed Sullivan Show!