|Ann-Margret belts out title tune in Bye Bye Birdie|
When Elvis-type rock singer Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) is drafted, a plan is developed whereupon he will kiss a lucky girl, Kim (Ann-Margret), goodbye on the Ed Sullivan show. Songwriter Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke), whose song Birdie will sing, hopes this will lead to lasting success as a composer, while his secretary, Rosie (Janet Leigh), hopes it will lead to their marriage. Kim's father (Paul Lynde) hopes that his daughter's Sullivan appearance will lead to more business, while her boyfriend, (Bobby Rydell), just wants to belt Conrad in the nose. Albert's mother (Maureen Stapleton) seems only to want to take pot shots at Rosie ... and so on. But will a substitute ballet selection mean that Birdie and Kim will have to be bounced from the show, dashing everyone's hopes? Based on the Broadway stage musical, this adaptation is good-natured and pleasant but overall not that memorable. Ann-Margret at 22 seems way too sophisticated for a small town high school girl, and is in fact borderline grotesque at times. Maureen Stapleton, who doesn't seem to know how to kvetch, gives one of her rare bad performances. Van Dyke, Leigh, Sullivan [playing himself] and Rydell come off the best, with Lynde not far behind. Pearson isn't bad as the ersatz Elvis, but he's generally a bit too much, overdoing everything -- less would have been a lot more. Some of the songs make an impression: "Ed Sullivan;" "Put on a Happy Face" (which has become a standard); "Kids:' and the whole splashy production number "Got a Lot of Livin' to Do." The finale has the principles sabotaging a sequence from a Tchaikovsky ballet just so Conrad can sing Albert's forgettable number "One Last Kiss." Oy vey!
Verdict: Pleasant but not much more. **1/2.