Even bullies get bullied sometimes

The Bully

Music, lyrics and musical direction by John Gregor
Book by David L. Williams
Directed by Suzu McConnell-Wood
Vital Childrenís Theatre (www.vitaltheatre.org)
McGinn/Cazale Theatre
2162 Broadway, 4th fl. (www.theatermania.com; 212/352-3101)
Equity showcase (closes February 5)
Review by Byrne Harrison

The Bully, directed by Suzu McConnell-Wood, tells the story of Lenny (Brian Charles Rooney), the smartest kid in his school, and Steve (Miron Gusso), the strongest boy and school bully, who makes Lennyís life, especially gym class, unbearable. All this changes when the boys accidentally get on the wrong bus and wind up at a new school. There they meet Meg (Laura Binstock), the queen bee, who is both the smartest and the strongest girl and rules with an iron fist. She shows the boys how new kids are treated when she makes Lenny do her gangís homework and Steve carry all their books. Neither Lennyís brains nor Steveís brawn alone are enough to defeat Meg, but together, they might best her, return to their school, and maybe even learn that they are more alike than either of them wants to admit.

The Bullyís music and lyrics (John Gregor) are clever and engaging, with one or two songs audiences are sure to be humming when they leave the theatre. David L. Williamsís book is strong -- it complements the music and lyrics, and the language rings true. The cast were full of talent, enthusiasm, and energy that didnít fade, even when they were in the lobby meeting the audience after the show. Miron Gusso is dead on as the petulant and menacing Steve. Though at times his voice got overpowered by the music, he made up for it with his facial expressions and body language; he showed a gift for physical comedy. Brian Charles Rooney was amusing and sympathetic as Lenny, especially in the gym scenes, which will likely bring back a few unpleasant memories for everyone. Laura Binstockís Meg was a delight, all sugar and spice and everything nasty. Itís a wonderful part, and she had a great time with it. Rounding out the cast were Jere Williams, Shane Camp, and Katherine Boynton, who played various roles, but spent most of their time playing Steve or Megís gang. Jeanette Bonner did a good job portraying the grown-ups who have all the power, but canít see the truth that is right in front of them.

Eric Everettís set was spare, consisting primarily of flats and a few chairs. In a clever turn, most of the locations were indicated with the use of slides projected on the center flat. Amy Kitzhaberís costumes, especially the school uniforms, were very well done.

The show was still a little rough on opening day. There were technical problems, lines that got flubbed, timing that was a little off Ö things that tend to get smoothed out rather quickly once a show opens. Did the parents notice the problems? Possibly. Did the kids? Probably not. They were too busy having fun. And if their reaction during and after the show was any indication, Vital can chalk up another success.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Byrne Harrison