Music Circus’ latest musical, “Bye Bye Birdie,” takes place during rock and roll’s coming of age in the 1950s. The Tony-winning satire based on Elvis Presley’s notorious 1957 draft notice and eventual induction into the Army sends up celebrity culture obsessions while they were still relatively benign.
In “Birdie,” which opens July 7, ingenue Kim MacAfee is chosen for the publicity stunt of receiving “one last kiss” from rock ’n’ roll sensation Conrad Birdie before he joins the Army. The whole spectacle is staged by his manager, Albert, and Albert’s romance-starved girlfriend, Rosie (Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera in the original Broadway production).
Now performers are adept at interacting with fans and media through numerous communication and delivery platforms, and they jump-start their careers by producing their own material.
Sainty Nelsen, who will play Ursula Merkle, Kim’s friend, has produced eight episodes of the online series “The Bay” and is the executive producer along with husband Eric Nelsen of the upcoming film “Chasing Yesterday,” scheduled for release in September.
“(It) just got accepted to all these festivals, and we’ve been doing kind of a tour of that,” Nelsen said. “We’re in the middle of a distribution deal for that.”
Nelsen, 26, will also appear in the opening episode of the new FX show “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” which premieres at 10 p.m. July 16.
“I couldn’t have been more blessed with a better group to begin my television journey with,” Nelsen said of the Denis Leary-created series.
“Denis is unreal. He’s truly as brilliant off-screen as he is on the screen.”
Nelsen plays Becky, the best friend of aspiring singer Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies) in “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.” The two have become real-life best friends as well, Nelsen said.
Music Circus artistic director Glenn Casale chose “Birdie” because of its lighthearted, family-friendly nature, which contrasts with heavier plays “Big River” and “West Side Story” in this season’s lineup.
Casale said he cast Nelsen for “her personality, enthusiasm (and) whole point of view.”
Nelsen noted the “Birdie” cast is stocked with achievers such as herself.
“Everyone’s kind of Broadway stars or television and movie stars in this cast,” Nelsen said.
Nathaniel Hackman, who plays Conrad Birdie, recently finished serving as the understudy for the Jean Valjean role in the Broadway production of “Les Misérables.”
Amanda Jane Cooper, who plays Kim, had a recurring role on ABC’s “Selfie” and played Glinda in the first national tour of “Wicked.” Garett Hawe (Hugo Peabody, Kim’s jealous boyfriend) performed on Broadway in “Matilda,” “Mary Poppins” and “Newsies” – as well as Music Circus productions.
Nelsen also has prominent roles in two feature films coming out within the next year. She will appear alongside former “Saved By the Bell” cast member Dennis Haskins in “Beauty Mark” and as a nurse in “Donnybrook,” about a former Marine’s involvement in a fight club.
For now, though, her focus is on Music Circus and “Bye Bye Birdie.”
“It’s a pretty major, fun, young and energetic cast,” Nelsen said.
Bye Bye Birdie
- What: Third production in Music Circus’s 65th anniversary season; a rock ’n’ roll star arrives in a small town to publicize his Army draft departure by sharing “one last kiss” with a fan. Directed by Glenn Casale.
- When: Nightly at 7:30 July 7-12; 2 p.m. shows July 9, 11 and 12
- Where: Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento
- Tickets: $43-$80
- Information: (916) 557-1999, www.SacramentoMusicCircus.com