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Review: The Bully

Vital Theatre Company breathes new life into The Bully.

Courtesy of Steven Rosen

Courtesy of Steven Rosen

Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Considering its dire and all-too-real consequences, bullying ought to be on all our radars. What's great about Vital Theatre Company's musical , which debuted in 2005, is that it eschews easy dichotomies, focusing instead on the decidedly gray areas between bully and victim, onlooker and participant, in such a way that everyone in the audience learns a thing or two about it—and recognizes in himself the human tendency to indulge in behavior that can hurt others.

When geeky student Lenny (Cameron Perry) and his classmate Steve (Riley Thomas), the brauny athlete type who gets virtually every kid in class to taunt the apparently meek Lenny during gym, mistakenly hop on a bus to the wrong school, cheekily called Weltbottom, both encounter what it's like to be at the bottom of the totem pole. Reigning supreme there is Meg (Hilary Fingerman), the biggest bully of them all, a bouncy teacher's pet whose wiles have every student in her thrall. After finally turning to each other for help, Steve and Lenny learn to their surprise that they each bear some resemblance to Meg: Steve for his classic bigger-than-thou posture and Lenny for his better-than-thou comeuppance, which mocks Steve's lack of intelligence and gains favor with teachers by tattling. Happily, the former enemies unite forces against evil, eventually even teaching their classmates—played with wonderful panache by Kathleen Choe, who also plays the bus driver, in the show's most humorous turn; Justin Garascia, whose devilish verve is as entrancing as it is toxic; and Matthew Krob, who also morphs into the smarmy gym teacher and the hilarious Ms. Roosevelt, among other roles—what it takes to give bullying the slip.

Kept to a kid-perfect 60 minutes, the production's pacing and tone will appeal equally to younger kids, who will eat up the catchy music and humor, and their older counterparts, who are bound to connect to their fictional peers' plights with a compassion bred from experience. Once again, Vital triumphs with a production that speaks to kids on their own terms about a subject that really truly matters. 

runs through Feb 26: Sat, Sun (and Presidents Day, Mon Feb 20) at 11am, 1pm. Vital Theatre Company. $25--$30. Ages 4 to 12.

Directed by Linda Ames Key, with book by David L. Williams and music, lyrics and orchestration by John Gregor.

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