Gangsters vie for stage supremacy

CHELSEA ARMITAGE
Last updated 13:49 26/06/2014
Bugsy Malone
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

BRIGHT LIGHTS: Caitlin Gladstone and Simon Wynne-Jones with the Club Singers in Nayland College’s production of Bugsy Malone

Bugsy Malone
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
SPEAKEASY SOUNDS: Kate Lovell performs with the Club Singers.
Bugsy Malone
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
CHORUS LINE: The Club Singers are in a flap, 1920s-style.

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Nayland College is in the grip of gang warfare, but there's no need to panic. Chelsea Armitage finds that there's every reason to make a big song and dance about it.

When the parents of Nayland College students enrolled them at the school, little did they know their precious children would emerge as 1920s gangsters.

With slicked-back hair, impressive moustaches and surprisingly well-fitting suits, Knuckles, Baby Face and Fat Sam are running a water pistol-fuelled rampage at the school over the next two weeks.

Nayland's biennial production Bugsy Malone is set to be a local hit, with a talented cast and a dark yet hilarious undertone.

The show's story comes from a 1976 British film, which featured a cast of kids wielding custard-squirting guns and firing off insults like "dumb salami" and "noodle brain".

It is based on 1920s New York, loosely following the exploits of the likes of Al Capone and Bugs Moran, and touching on the complexities of young love and ambition.

The crew hang out at places like Fat Sam's Grand Slam, a speakeasy where kiddies can drink sparkling grape juice to their heart's content, away from the prying eyes of the authorities.

Near-perfect New York accents from the show's leads, paired with ankle-length fur coats and bow ties, provide an authentic mafia experience from the get-go.

It's sometimes difficult to tell the guys from the dolls, with their slicked-back ponytails and impressively painted moustaches reminiscent of the 1920s Prohibition era.

It is director Keran Brady's third Nayland production, and her passion for children and theatre was evident as she ran furiously around the school hall shepherding the 74 cast members at their dress rehearsal earlier this week. The crew, including backstage, hair and makeup, features well over 100 students and 25 staff.

One can only assume that the Nayland head of drama's enthusiasm and effervescence comes from her short pixie haircut and bright blue fringe.

"This production totally encapsulates ‘Manaaki Nayland', which stands for respect, compassion and working as a coherent team," said Brady.

The cast have been rehearsing every day since nearly the beginning of the year, and their hard work has definitely paid off. With most already members of Nayland's dance and drama companies, the show is of a professional musical theatre standard.

Emma Usui and Caitlin Gladstone provide spectacular vocal stylings, and Simon Wynne-Jones' representation of Bugsy is as authentic as it gets.

Brady has stayed true to the show's original script, while putting her own mixed media spin on things.

The production takes the audience to another dimension, with film clips featuring classic cars from the World of WearableArt and Classic Cars Museum and "live" news bulletins about gangland killings.

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This multimedia approach adds to the overall theatre and entertainment experience, and proves that the cast are immensely talented both on stage and on screen.

Dramatic music from Chris Baillie, alongside teachers, students and several local musicians, is the icing on the cake.

And it wouldn't be a musical production without a hearty dose of dance.

Choreography has been overseen by 21-year-old Oakley Salton, a former Nayland student. Salton graduated from Otago University with a Bachelor of Performing Arts last year and is now completing a postgraduate degree in teaching through correspondence at Wellington's Victoria University.

She has managed to incorporate her volunteer work for the production into her studies, completing her placements at Nayland and spending much of her free time choreographing dance moves for the show.

"A few of the kids were in year 9 when I left Nayland, and now I'm back with them in year 13," she said.

"The kids are awesome. You know when you go to Nayland that you're going to get involved in the performing arts, and it's really great that it's so important at the school."

Bugsy Malone runs from June 27-30 and July 1-2. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors, available from the school reception.

- Nelson

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