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John Andreadis Takes the Fast Road to Stage Acting Success

Article about freshman John Andreadis, who won a Freddy Award for his performance in a high school play

by Joe Savrock (August 2008)

andreadis_john.jpg UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – It didn’t take long for John Andreadis to discover his knack for acting. It took even less time for theater critics to discover Andreadis.

Andreadis, a Penn State freshman majoring in Secondary Education–English, is a product of Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pa. Last spring he played the lead role, Conrad Birdie, in his high school’s production of the classic musical Bye Bye Birdie.

Andreadis executed such a glowing performance that he earned a regional high school acting award—the 2008 Freddy Award for Featured Performance by an Actor.

Freddy Awards recognize exceptional accomplishments in the production and performance of musical theatre at 27 high schools in the eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey region. The awards committee critiques 18 different categories that include acting, singing, lighting, and set design. The 2008 gala awards ceremony was held in May at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Easton, Pa.

One Freddy judge wrote: “Simply the best Conrad I have ever seen in an amateur production. Not a gyration was left unswiveled, not a hip was left unshot, not a thrust went off without a bang. He is a natural!” 

Freedom High School is acclaimed for its successes in theater production. The school won five Freddy Awards for its Bye Bye Birdie production and was nominated in a total of 16 categories.

For Andreadis, the acting bug came on very quickly. “I was always the soccer player,” he says. “I never thought about doing theater until I took a drama class in my junior year with the Theatre Company director. She saw something in me and asked me to try out for the spring musical.”

So Andreadis tried out for that year’s musical, Anything Goes, and ended up getting the lead role. “I enjoyed the experience so much; it was like nothing else I had ever experienced,” he says. “I had so much fun meeting new people that I knew I would try out the following year, in the spring of my senior year.”

In Andreadis’s senior year, the school chose Bye Bye Birdie as its stage presentation. Andreadis tried out for the play and, once again, he got the lead role.

Conrad Birdie, the play's lead character, is an Elvis-like young man who is drafted into the Army. Birdie must sing the song One Last Kiss to adoring fans in Sweet Apple, Ohio before leaving to begin his military service. He kisses one lucky girl, Kim MacAfee, to symbolize his departure. Birdie sings three musical pieces in the presentation.

Andreadis acknowledges that learning how to move and sing like Elvis took great discipline. “I spent hours upon hours just watching videos and learning how Elvis moved and swayed the audience, and I also studied the uniqueness of his voice,” said Andreadis. “For some reason it was quite easy for me to get the right sound of Elvis, and after that everything else seemed to fall into place.”

Andreadis’s rendition of the song Honestly, Sincere won the Freddy Award for Best Overall Production Number. “During this number, I felt as if I really was Elvis,” he said. He sounded so convincing that, after each night’s performance, a handful of the audience asked Andreadis if he was lip-syncing to a recorded voice-over of Elvis.

“I swear—that was the best feeling. I couldn't believe that people actually thought it was not me singing,” exclaimed Andreadis.

Andreadis’ wardrobe consisted of tight pants and shirts, “because that’s what Elvis was known for,” he said. “And during the number Honestly, Sincere, I had to wear a skin-tight gold suit that truly resembles something Elvis would have worn. It was hard to move my hips and dance like Elvis in them, but I got over that and it was so much fun.”

In the weeks leading up to the presentation of Bye Bye Birdie, the school received a visit from former Emmy nominee Chris Lockhart, a well-known Hollywood producer and executive story editor at International Creative Management, a leading talent and literary agency in Beverly Hills, Calif.  Lockhart had heard of the Freddy Awards and arrived to film a documentary about high school theater. His intent was to cover several of the schools throughout the region, but when he saw the outstanding dedication displayed by the cast of Bye Bye Birdie, he focused his entire documentary on Freedom High School and its activities.

Andreadis says his acting career is not over. “I definitely hope to perform in plays and musicals while in college,” he says. “Acting is such a new love for me and I want to keep it in my life as long as I can. I get a thrill out of doing theatre more than anything.”