Saturday, November 10, 2012

REVIEW: CYT's "Bugsy" Bugged Me, But...

There are several good things (mainly the look, the kids and the direction) about the CYT* production of "Bugsy Malone", but there are also a few things that could have and should have been done better (like the sound and the dance).

Becca Weinberg as Blousy Brown and Sam Stringer as Bugsy Malone
Description: A slapstick musical comedy following the rivalry between two half-witted street gangs and the washed up, well-intentioned, one-time boxer who steps in to take control of Fat Sam’s gang and give Dandy Dan and his boys what they’ve got coming. In this film noir spoof, the message is one of good, clean fun; the characters are wonderful 1920's cartoon cutouts; and the weapons of choice are "splurge" whip cream guns, flour bombs, and custard pies. Written to be performed by younger cast.

Kids will like this show, and so will the parents and friends of the kids in it. CYT productions are great for building talent and character in the participants. They provide a much needed training ground. They have kids of all levels and they help them become better. You have to start somewhere, after all.

And there is definitely talent in the ranks of this production. There’s a lot more budding talent as well. Practice makes perfect they say. And that’s the whole idea.

Mikayla Merrell as Tallulah, center.

Ah, You Dirty Rat

Sometimes I really hate to be the critic because I genuinely like to encourage and inspire people. Still, I have chosen to do this for that very reason. But you can’t always be the voice of praise if you want people to grow. It is also important to me to be honest with the public. That might not always make me or my blog popular with some, but I have to tell it like it is—that’s my duty as a reliable reviewer.

In a nut shell this production was riddled with problems, but that has little to do with poor acting, dancing or singing. Yes, there could be improvement in those areas. Still, a number of the leads were rather good and even some chorus members stood out. On the other hand there were some that simply walked through their parts and one, in particular, who seemed bored and distracted. 

Look Ma, I'm On Top of the World!

Henry Martin (far left) and Calvin Whitney (top center)
were the show's top actors.

Standout performances were given by Becca Weinberg as Blousy Brown, Ben Almquist as Fat Sam (though he wasn’t fat), Mikayla Merrell as Tallulah, Henry Martin as Cagey Joe, Calvin Whitney as Leroy, and Calvin Pugh was delightful and energetic as one of the chorus/gang members. Both Alex Havens and Cole Peterson as police officers were rather amusing.

Weinberg sang wonderfully and acted well. Almquist was great; he delivered his lines really well and I liked his acting, but his performance was greatly hampered by his mic (which, when it worked at all made him sound like a Cylon).

It was Martin and Whitney who were my favorites; both were great actors. Martin was "punchy" and put his all into the role. Whitney was just a quality performer all around. Sam Stringer as Bugsy delivered nicely as well. All the leads sang well enough. Karlson Drendel carried his lines and singing well, but physically, he seemed under-expressive and restrained. None were particularly good at dancing. 

The play itself has a few nice numbers, but isn’t that special in dialogue or pace. There were several moments that bored me and others that simply kept me waiting. “So You Wanna Be a Boxer” was the show’s standout number. “Show Business” was its weakest number. Blousey’s songs were all nicely delivered, and the duet with Bugsy was particularly well done by both. 

Karlson Drendel (Dandy Dan), Sam Stringer (Bugsy Malone) and
Ben Almquist (Fat Sam).

For Two Cents I'd...

The biggest problem area is the technical side of things. While several aspects of the lighting and staging were quite good other areas, like sound, scene changes and some of the lighting fell short. Micing was the biggest issue. It basically stank. The show was SIGNIFICANTLY hampered by poor sound quality. Mics cut in and out frequently and sound cues were off.

Dance numbers generally lacked zip. The choreography was quite basic, but not mastered. The dancers were seldom in sync and lack of technique was apparent. It needed a firmer hand and more rehearsal. Tighter dance performances would have went a long way in improving the show. The dance styles also showed little effort and attention to period. I do suggest a vigorous dance pick-up rehearsal before next week’s performances. 

The unit set, costumes, colorful lighting and the band (back left)
were impressive as were many of the lead performers.

It's Like This, See

I did like the basic unit set and the use of color and patterns in the mood lighting. However, several times the actors walked out of the lighting pools. A scrim was used nicely as well as effects lighting. To its merit, the band, led by Alicia Dunn (a skilled pianist), was excellent and well balanced. The overall direction, by Starleen Benke, was generally good. Costumes were great!

CYT (*now Journey Theater Arts Group) offers "Bugsy Malone," at the Washburn Performing Arts Center, 1201 39th St., Washougal, Wash. Performances continue Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17 at 3 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

Click here for directions

Advance Ticket Information: Adult (ages 19 and up) - $12, Youth (ages 2 to 18) - $9, Senior (ages 62+) - $9. Groups of 10 or more - $9 and Family Day $9 (November 10 at 7 p.m. only). Sales at the Door: $14. - Adult (ages 19 and up), $11. - Youth (ages 2 to 18), $11. - Senior (ages 62+), $11. - Groups of 10 or more. Family Day $11. each (Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. only).

School Day Performances have been CANCELED! 

Purchase tickets at:

By Gregory E. Zschomler
All photos provided

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