CMU School of Drama

Friday, March 31, 2017

Live Bye Bye Birdie to Be Less Sexist (& More Puerto Rican)

The Mary Sue: NBC loves them their live musical events, and we are closing in on their next offering, Bye Bye Birdie, which both stars, and is Executive Produced by Jennifer Lopez. Broadway legend, Harvey Fierstein, has adapted the musical’s book, and has made some substantial tweaks to bring this picture of 1960s Americana into the 21st Century.

5 comments:

Vanessa Ramon said...

My favorite part of this article is the quote from Harvey Fierstein. I like how he changed things simply because they made more sense. I also agree with him and find this kind of thinking very beneficial. Many people when putting on musicals like this stay true to the original script and original time period. I think this is because they get distracted by all of the dancing and singing and don't worry about how the inconsistencies with today's mind set conflicts with the ideals of the past. Also, I like how the author stated the history of the Rosie roll. It is so interesting to me how even when the Hispanic population is so large, people don't bother to find a great Latina women to play the role. Overall, I an really excited to see what other cool changes they end of making. I like how there seem to be simple and completely valid reasons to make these changes. Hopefully people will buy into them simply as well.

Simone Schneeberg said...

When I saw Bye Bye Birdie, I saw the movie version. I was very young with my best friend who loved the movie. It was very white, I was very bored, and, through my lack of interest in the movie, I never really bothered to look into the story. It was done by my sister's middle school, where they closest they got was two black girls int he ensemble, but no Puerto Rican lead. So the show stayed white in my mind. When I saw the title of the article I was confused because I never actually put it together that Rosie was a Latina woman, but now I am far more excited for Bye Bye Birdie. (Well not that excited as I don't find it the most interesting show.) I'm very happy that it is being altered not only back to its original, but also to fit better in this day and age. It's hard, I find, with older shows to determine how to play them for the present's audience. Unaltered, bad stereotypes and racism/sexism can be played off as of the past so the extra work is unnecessary. There is also the argument of protecting a classic. I feel if the racism/sexism of an older show only perpetrates oppression and teaches you nothing (like secretarial affairs), not altering it is simply stubborn. Altering them also brings in more of an audience, as more can relate to and support the changed story line.

John Yoerger said...

I am glad to hear they are making transitions to keep the piece more inclusive and equitable, full of diversity. One thing that I think is a little disappointing is the adaptations that are making it "less sexist" because, while I absolutely agree that sexism is wrong, I feel this is the same case made by those who don't want "the n word" to be used in a Production of Ragtime. You are taking away a meaning of the work and what it can say about the society in which we live. Just thinking about how our election has already begun to shape the theatre and work artists are creating, I don't feel it should be halted by commercialism and NBC not wanting to take a stance on anything. There is something to be said about sexism and the problem we have with it in our country. And if Lady Gaga can do it at the Superbowl, then so can we on NBC. There is something to be said about the TV and Theatre worlds crossing and what it does to our beloved art form...

Megan Jones said...

Although I've never really liked Bye Bye Birdie all that much it's good to know that Jennifer Lopez and Harvey Firestein are trying to approach it from a new point a view. Personally I find the show a little grating and I think that it's full of old stereotypes as well as an overdone story. However something I haven't thought about before is that every time that I've seen Bye Bye Birdie Rosie's Puerto Rican identity has either been ignored or erased. This is something that needs to change, and it's good that this filmed direction is clearly going to have an inclusive and diverse cast. I also think that changing their professions to promote gender equality within the show is a positive change to the show, and I'm very curious to see how it will affect the plot of the production. Even though I'm not really a fan of the show I'll still watch this when it's released, as this is the kind of change I want to support in theatrical productions.

Emma Reichard said...

Bye Bye Birdie is one of those shows, along with West Side Story, that tried its best and was pretty good for its time, but doesn’t sit well with the modern audience. Especially in terms of Latinx representation. I’m glad they are updating the live version, and I hope it turns out successful. When I saw Hairspray I thought they could have done more to update the script to reflect on modern events, and it made what could have been a very powerful and uplifting piece fall flat. But I have high hopes for Birdie. In terms of Rosie’s Puerto Rican heritage, I’m glad that the island is getting more representation, and I hope that the complexity of the Puerto Rican identity is well explained. Allthough, one could argue that choosing a Puerto Rican brand of Latinx is a ‘safe option’ because it eliminates a lot of the issues in terms of immigration and language barrier (somewhat). But given the casting choice, it makes the most sense.