After a very brief run on Broadway in the comedy revue Girls Against the Boys, Dick auditioned before legendary director Gower Champion for a new musical entitled Bye Bye Birdie, the thinly disguised take on the mania surrounding Elvis Presley’s induction into the army in 1958.
Dick landed the role of songwriter-
The show opened at the Martin Beck Theater on April 14, 1960, with a cast which included Dick Gautier, Kay Medford, Paul Lynde, and, as Albert’s love interest, Chita Rivera as Rosie.
Birdie provided Dick with a Tony Award as Featured Actor and a song that became his anthem —“Put on a Happy Face.”
Besides being a Broadway hit, Bye Bye Birdie led to other projects, most notably, the 1963 film version of the musical and a visit to the theater by Sheldon Leonard and Carl Reiner who were looking to retool and recast a certain sitcom about a television writer.
Bye Bye Birdie
More recently, in 2006, Dick and Chita Rivera had a Broadway reunion when Dick appeared for four shows as a special guest in Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.
Bye Bye Birdie was the vehicle which finally allowed Dick the chance to “spread sunshine all over the place.”