South O’ the Highway

Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ Updated for Modern Times

NBC is currently developing Bye Bye Birdie as their next live musical production and will star Water Mill’s Jennifer Lopez. The classic 1957 musical comedy tells the tale of harried agent Albert and his secretary Rosie trying to keep their top talent, Conrad Birdie, out of trouble before he’s sent overseas by the draft. After bringing him to a small town to give “One Last Kiss” to a lucky suburban girl, all hell breaks loose when Birdie decides to go out for a night on the town with the local kids. All throughout, Rosie, Albert’s girlfriend and assistant, tries to convince Albert to leave the crazy music business behind.

According to the The Hollywood Reporter, NBC has drafted Harvey Fierstein to retool the story for modern audiences. Fierstein outlined some of those changes, and one of them is a biggie: Don’t expect Lopez’s Rosie to be a put-upon secretary having an affair with her boss. “I want to be true to the time it takes place but at the same time, having Rosie be Albert’s secretary whom he’s having an affair with is a little sexist and old-fashioned. I didn’t see any reason for that,” Fierstein said. Instead, Rosie and Albert are teachers who have been working with Birdie for eight years after Albert wrote a song that made Birdie famous. Rosie is now Birdie’s music teacher.

The show’s opening song, in which Rosie wishes Albert would have become “An English Teacher,” will have slightly new lyrics to reflect the new backstory. Many scenes and songs are being rearranged and reordered for the live show. Fierstein is also making changes to accommodate Lopez’s request to show her character’s struggles as a Puerto Rican woman.

There’s no word yet on casting for the other roles. Bye Bye Birdie premieres on NBC this holiday season.

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