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.

Gia On The Move, Matt Ritchey, theater reviews, Hollywood Fringe Festival, The Bully ProblemA 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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