Reviewed by Matt Ritchey
“There is only one thing that a musical play must have – it must have music. And there is only one thing that it has to be – it has to be good.” Well, in my opinion, there are TWO things that a musical play absolutely must have – music and a STORY. If that story has relatable, likable characters, a rock solid story structure, earworm songs, a positive message, and wonderful production and performances, so much the better. Fortunately, The Bully Problem has all of that covered.
A new musical from Michael Shapiro, The Bully Problem tackles the real problem of bullying with a fun Hanna-Barbera-ish bent – there’s a slightly cartoonish vibe to the characters: bright colors, exaggerated postures, archetypal personalities. But this is in no way a slight, as everyone is a fully-formed, three-dimensional character. But it’s easy to see how Oscar, Kevin, Puncho and the rest could very easily have jumped out of a 1970’s cartoon and brought this story to life.
Kevin (James Everts) is a solitary junior high science kid desperate to win entrance into a fancy tech school who is bequeathed a very realistic robot sidekick (Jordan Mitchell-Love) from his deceased father. In trying to use this device to help him achieve his goal, he inadvertently finds a practical use for him – Oscar is a great bodyguard. Kevin soon finds himself hiding from Gordo (a great Josh Hillinger) and his bully crew with a host of other nerds. It looks like suddenly Oscar is now destined to have a bigger role at the junior high! And Kevin might just start noticing the world around him and what else he has to look forward to, like Margaret (Allie Costa).
A tight script with great structure, clever dialogue, and crisp direction from Joanna Syiek, The Bully Problem also has extremely fun and stylistically varied songs, my favorite being the nerd/geek anthem “Hide.” A great new musical. A fun show with a huge heart.
Very Highly Recommended
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