With opening night right around the corner on Friday, July 18, the cast and crew of Theatre Theatre Maui’s six-week summer program is working diligently to perfect their rendition of Bugsy Malone Jr. which will be performed in Lahaina Intermediate School’s cafeteria.
It’s unusual to see a children’s play based on a film like Bugsy Malone. Set in the Roaring ’20s, the play features a cast of children who must deal with adult themes while they portray the roles of gangsters and show girls.
Director Kristi Scott said that although the show deals with serious issues like gangs and violence, it’s done in a fun and different way that ultimately ends with a heart-warming message about amity and teamwork. “I remember watching it when I was really young and it made me smile and taught me some things at the same time,” Scott said. “[It addresses] using gangs in a different way, for positive as opposed to fighting each other.”
Musical director Vania Jerome said that she was excited to help put on this show because it’s not what the kids are used to performing. “The music is different from anything the kids have done before and I just like the story line,” she said. “It has some historical references to it, so I thought it would be a great, fun show and educational for them as well.”
Set and tech director Derek Nakagawa said that working on this production has been a great experience for him. “It’s one of those period pieces that you don’t often get a chance to do with a bunch of little kids,” he said. “I knew it was gonna be fun and I knew the set was gonna be something attainable, something for all of us to work on together.”
The unique aspect of Theatre Theatre Maui’s summer camp is that the kids are involved in everything that goes into putting on their show, right down to creation of the props and backdrops that will appear on stage. “I want them to know what goes into it, so that they have a little bit more respect for it,” Scott said. “It takes a village to put a play on and I really want them to learn that and to be a part of that village.”
Annabehl Sinclair is an important part of that village as she is the Theatre Theatre Maui board’s treasurer, a supportive parent for cast member Rory (who plays Fat Sam) and a self-proclaimed “free-for-all prop/set/costume person.” As she slathered grey paint onto what appeared to be a cardboard hair dryer, Sinclair explained how they came up with the designs for these “splurgers”–the characters’ weapons of choice.
“Because we’re on Department Of Education (DOE) property, we couldn’t make anything look like an actual weapon, so we had to get creative,” Sinclair said. “All of our splurgers are disguised as other things. We’ve got an old camera, violin cases, a movie camera [and more].”
Although Theatre Theatre Maui has almost no limit to the amount of paper mache they can use to create props such as the splurgers, their costume situation is a different story. “We don’t have the resources to build all of our costumes,” Scott said. “That’s just not something that’s in our budget at the moment.”
Luckily, the theater group has the support of Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA), which helps them get any costumes that they need. “We’re very fortunate to have MAPA on our side,” Scott said. “They’ve allowed us to go into their costume bank and we’ve been able to pull some matching costumes for our girls.” The theater also donates anything that they build back to MAPA which allows both theater groups to benefit from each other.
Jerome said that she thinks it’s great that there’s a theater program available for Westside kids–kids who may not be able to participate in groups like MAPA that are located across the island. “I do a lot of work on the other side because that’s where the majority of performing arts is,” Jerome said. “I’m just so grateful that Theatre Theatre is here to provide things for our kids here on the Westside because we always get kind of swept under the rug somehow.”
Even though there isn’t a year-round program for aspiring actors on the Westside, Jerome said that the kids in Bugsy Malone Jr. are awesome performers. “It’s been really great to be able to pull out the different talents and ideas from them,” Jerome said. “They’ve been very cooperative and collaborative, so it’s been fun working with them.”
Scott agreed that they have a phenomenal group of kids in the program this year. “They’ve all gotten along, we’ve had very little drama and they’ve all worked really hard at what they’re doing,” Scott said. “Kids are more talented and capable than they give themselves credit for and I really want them to find that in themselves.”
After watching them grow as actors over the last four weeks or even over the last four years, Scott said that she is proud of every student in the camp and she has a favorite moment in the play for each cast member. “Each of the kids have such lovely little moments that, for me, just make me smile and the older kids have some great dance numbers,” Scott said.
At the end of the day, Scott said that it is important for everyone in our community to support local theater in any way they can. “The kids that start here, you never know, they might wind up being on television,” Scott said. “Support local theater because you never know where it will lead.”
Bugsy Malone Jr. runs four performances: three evening shows July 18-20 and one matinee on July 20. Tickets can be purchased at the door with cash or checks only.
Showtimes: Friday and Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 2pm. $10 adults, $5 kids; Lahaina Intermediate School Cafeteria (871 Lahainaluna Rd., Lahaina); 808-661-1168.
– Ashley Probst (@ashprobsticle)
Photo: Angela Thompson