Former ‘Rosie’ Advises Today’s ‘Rosie’: Be Strong, Be Spunky, Be a Leader!

Elizabeth Bolin, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

This year, Notre Dame’s musical Bye Bye Birdie nods to the past. However, this is not the first time Bye Bye Birdie has graced the stage of Notre Dame Academy.

Kerri Graham, Mrs. Andrea Hearden’s sister-in-law, played the lead (Rosie) in the 1995 production of the show.

“My older siblings were in shows at Premontre and St. Joseph’s Academy when I was little. I distinctly remember going to their shows when I was 3, 4 and 5 years old and dreaming about being on the stage at NDA some day,” recalled Graham.

Her theatrical career began at a local theater and eventually flourished through the Academy choir and musical department in which she participated all four years of high school.

“I LOVED every moment I spent in the music and theatre programs at NDA,” said Graham.

“I was SO excited, honored and rather surprised when I found out I had been cast as Rosie,” she said. Rosie’s voice part is an alto, and Graham, being a soprano, expected to be cast as Kim if she was a lead.

“I knew I would get to sing and dance in the role and that she was a spunky, strong woman. I was really honored to have the opportunity to perform such a fun role on the stage where my siblings had performed fifteen years prior.”

“I love performing, so I soaked up the entire process of rehearsing, learning the songs and learning the dances,” she added.

Indeed, Graham enjoyed every aspect of the production.

“I loved doing it with all my dear friends. The experience was also super special because Mrs Hearden is my sister-in-law, and I was so excited to get to learn and perform under hers and Mrs. Schmidt’s guidance.”

“My biggest victory was that I learned how to belt,”she explained.  When Graham was Rosie, there were no personal microphones, so the actors had to project to the back of the auditorium.

“I am a high soprano, so learning how to project low songs to the back of the auditorium was a huge victory and growth moment for me.”

To Maya AbuJamra, this year’s Rosie she gives this advice: “Be strong, be spunky, be a leader, and have fun!”

Bye Bye Birdie is a complex show with a lot of subplots and a few lessons, especially for parents.

“Lesson One comes from the way that Mae treats Albert,” said the former Rosie. “She tries to dictate what Albert does as an adult, both professionally and personally. Although it’s hard, as parents our job is to let kids fly once they are adults.”

“Lesson Two,” she continued, “comes from Albert. He is trying to be the man his mom wants him to be rather than who he should be, and he is torn and miserable when he tries to live up to his mom’s goals for him. I think this speaks loudly to all of us about the importance of staying true to who we are rather than who others want us to be.”

Finally, she concluded that Rosie’s story holds the last lesson of the musical: “I think it’s really cool that she’s a strong, intelligent, confident, working woman in the 60s. She is her own person. Yet, she has the desires that many women have – to have a family with the person she wants. I think this is a precursor to the balance that many people experience today.”