There are pros and cons about this version as there is with the 1963 version. Ann Margret was 22 when she played the teenage Kim. She could pass for a high school teenager much better than 27-year-old Chynna Phillips. Ironically this role should have gone to Chynna's younger half sister, Bijoux, who was 15 at the time this movie was made.
I feel Chynna Phillips was mis-cast as the teenage Kim, because she photographed looking like a thirty-something housewife trying to dress like a fifties teenager; she has an old-looking face as opposed to the fresher, softer face of the 22-year-old Ann Margret. Phillips has a nice singing voice but her portrayal of the character was very weak and unconvincing, as if she herself were uncomfortable playing a high school girl at age 27. A much younger actress/singer should have played Kim.
This version is more true to the play and focuses more on the relationship between Rosie and Albert, especially in the latter half of the film, whereas the 1963 version tended to focus more on Kim, Hugo and their friends, culminating in the kiss between Conrad and Kim, with Hugo's intervention. That particular section appeared in the middle of this updated version. At the time Ann-Margret was hot so I supposed that's the reason more emphasis was placed on her character in general and on the Birdie Kiss scene.
This 1995 version has a lot of great singing and dancing--the people cast knew how to sing and their voices blended beautifully. Jason Alexander surprised me at how well he sang and played Albert, though I'm always going to have a great fondness for Mr. Dick Van Dyke's portrayal.
I have to say that Vanessa Williams' portrayal of Rosie was superb, strong, sassy, and full of pizzazz; she handled the singing and dancing wonderfully compared to poor Janet Leigh in the 1963 version, who was not a singer and did not even FAINTLY resemble a Latina character; she was forced to wear a cheesy black wig over her blonde hair which made it even more apparent she was dreadfully mis-cast for the role of Rosie. Rita Moreno would have been PERFECT in the role, so it's surprising she was passed over for the non-singing non-Latin Janet Leigh. Guess the old Hollywood practice of casting known caucasian stars of European descent in roles of color was still going on, even in 1963.
If you're a fan of the original play, this movie will especially be your cup of tea. I have never seen the play, so my point of reference was originally the 1963 movie release. Now that I've seen something closer to the original Broadway play, I must say I enjoy this version a lot more, because there are more great songs included. Still, I will always love the 1963 release, so I think it's an asset to have BOTH version of Bye Bye Birdie in your DVD library.