Bye Bye Birdie is getting a progressive update for NBC. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Harvey Fierstein, the man behind the classic 1960 Broadway musical’s newest adaptation, revealed that he has changed the main characters’ occupations, calling the original’s agent/secretary dynamic “a little sexist and old-fashioned.” The two romantic leads will be removed from the entertainment industry, instead working as high school teachers.
The original Bye Bye Birdie centers on failed songwriter Albert Peterson’s plot to have one of his songs performed by the musical icon Conrad Birdie before he’s shipped off to the Army. The scheme is concocted with the help of his secretary and the person he’s having an affair with, Rosie.
Fierstein is reportedly transforming this famous storyline—inspired by Elvis Presley’s draft notice in 1957—into something more modern and relatable. “[Albert]’s the English teacher who writes a song, and she’s the music teacher who says, ‘I’ve got a great kid with a great voice,’ ” Fierstein said of the new plot. “He ends up being Conrad Birdie, who’s supposed to only take one summer off to promote the record but turns into a star. It’s been eight years, and Rosie just wants to go back to their real lives. It really makes a lot more sense that way.”
As was reported last year, Rosie is being played by Jennifer Lopez in NBC’s upcoming live musical, and she’s making some significant adjustments to the material as well. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lopez has requested that Rosie’s “struggles as a Puerto Rican woman” approaching middle age and in a dysfunctional relationship be explored in depth, unlike in the 1963 film.
NBC’s live Bye Bye Birdie production will premiere in December.