By Thomas McKenna
The Tony-award winning musical “Bye Bye Birdie” will grace the stage of the Trillium Gathering Building in Lincoln this weekend with a condensed and edited version intended for younger audiences.
First Act Productions, the company staging the performance in Purcellville, is no stranger to the spotlight. It has sold out multiple shows in Loudoun since its founding five years ago.
Kristen Fitzgerald, the founder and director of First Act Productions, created the theater company while she was in high school and is currently a Musical Theater Major at New York University Steinhardt. From the beginning, the community response has been “overwhelming.”
“It’s been really amazing these past five years seeing it grow,” Fitzgerald said. “We love the positivity that the community of Loudoun brings to the show.”
Fitzgerald said it was always her intention to give back to the community through the theater company. When they staged Sound of Music in 2014, the youth actors portraying the von Trapp children performed at a local soup kitchen.
“I had always wanted to direct and start a company,” Fitzgerald explained. “I found the Tree of Life Ministries and my find passion for doing this. They just collided and created a company.”
In addition to this community involvement, Fitzgerald said that about 60% to 70% of First Act performances financially benefit various charity organizations such as Tree of Life Ministries, though this production of “Bye Bye Birdie” will not.
“We want to not just be in the community, but of the community,” Fitzgerald said. “And we want to always be giving back in whatever way we can.”
Over the years, the company has sold out a variety of shows, including Annie, Sound of Music, and Music Man. For the first time ever, they’ll be presenting the Young Performers Edition of a show, edited by Broadway musical licensing company Tams-Witmark.
“We really want our shows to be fast-paced,” Fitzgerald said. “[The editors] take a two- or three-hour show and condense it to one hour. So, it has all of the best parts of the show, but they’re obviously cut down. This show is very family-friendly, but for certain shows they cut any language or innuendo.”
“I think it’s a great chance to introduce young actors to a variety of musicals,” said Ryan McGaughey, an actress in the upcoming musical.
Although the adaptation may target younger audiences, the ages of the cast range drastically. The youngest among them is 10-years-old while the eldest is 65. Fitzgerald said she is amazed by the effort her cast never ceases to display during practice.
“We’ve got an amazing group of actors from all walks of life,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve never seen people so motivated. I’ve seen it in New York and I see it in these kids. They practice and perfect everything.”
McGaughey said she’s looking forward to showcasing the team that First Act Productions has brought together.
“What I would love more than anything is for folks to come out and see just have talented this cast and crew are,” McGaughey said. “Nothing would make me happier than to get the word out about First Act Productions and show our audiences what we are made of.”
As for the response to the upcoming showings, Fitzgerald said she has high hopes: “I’m really hoping that this is going to be our best show yet.”
Loudouners can experience the musical through four showings on August 9, 10, or 11. Tickets, which are $12.50, can be purchased online at http://thefirstact.org.