Getting in touch with one’s gangsta |

Getting in touch with one’s gangsta

Shauna Farnell
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailySean Pack, left, playing Bugsy Malone, and other perfomers practice for the upcoming performace of "Bugsy Malone, Jr." Wednesday at the Eagle-Vail Pavilion.

BEAVER CREEK – There are at least 80 children in the Vail Valley who the casual observer would be hard-pressed to distinguish from Broadway material.The Vail Performing Arts Academy presents Bugsy Malone, Jr., this weekend at the Vilar Center, and despite the performance consisting of several dozen children between the ages of 8 and 18, don’t expect a cute display of a lack of coordination. “Sometimes people think because you have kids, it’s going to be this cutesy little play,” said Josie Sutner, performer with the Academy, who was rehearsing for “Bugsy Malone” with the rest of the cast earlier this week. “Then, they’re so surprised by the talent. You would definitely be amazed at some of the abilities of the younger kids. You would think they wouldn’t be as capable, but they’re very focused. If you want to be here, that goes for everyone. Then we’ve got this incredibly talented staff with a reputation of choreographing music videos and having every lead role on Broadway.””Bugsy Malone, Jr.” is a tongue-in-cheek gangster musical involving in-play auditions at Fat Sam’s Speakeasy and silly conflicts between 1920’s gangs with splurge guns that shoot Silly String. The performance features high-energy Charlstonesque dance routines spearheaded by choreographer Colin Meirin, whose credentials include a cast spot as zombie in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and also as a dance in Madonna’s “Justify My Love” video. Annah Scully is the play’s executive director and former Broadway regular Beth Swearingen assistant director.”It’s a really funny comedy,” said Jake Dutmer, who plays Snake Eyes, Fat Sam’s sidekick. “I’ve always wanted to live in New York, so you can have your New York accent here.”

While school is out for summer, the Academy’s performers have dedicated the better part of their vacation – four weeks, six hours a day – to rehearsing.”It gives me something to do the whole summer,” said 9-year-old actress Mindy Vickers, whose multiple roles in “Bugsy” include an orphan and a gambler. “It’s fun to express yourself,” she said. It’s a good characteristic to have. It’s my first play of this kind with this academy.”Barring no holes

The final week of rehearsal leading up to Saturday’s and Sunday’s shows has brought out the biggest shine in “Bugsy’s” performers. One could say they go over the top.”When you do over the top, you can do anything,” said Cristian Escalera, who plays a trumpet player. “You can start crying and all of that.”With the over the top exercise, performers exaggerate their roles to the point that ad-libbing comes into play along with a big surge of extra energy. “A lot of your roles were actually spot-on,” said Scully to the group following Tuesday’s over the top rehearsal. “I know it’s meant to be an exaggeration, but a lot of what I saw is exactly what we want.” Then again, most of the academy’s actors don’t have to try to go over the top.

“Over the top is an exercise to see if people really come out of their shells,” said Sean Pack, who plays Bugsy Malone. “It’s a great way to get everyone really energetic and a little crazy before we tone it down and go to the Vilar to do a great show.”For performers like Jamie Simmonds, involvement in shows like “Bugsy” have been a springboard for her to move on to bigger venues.”I’m headed to New York next year to pursue acting, and all the stuff I’ve learned has been through this kind of thing,” said Simmonds, who earned an enrollment in the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan. “When you start when you’re this big (indicating the height of a small child), you develop everything you need to move on to something like Broadway.”Bugsy Malone, Jr.

What: comedy-musical tribute to 1920’s gangster flickWhen: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 6:30 p.m. SundayWhere: Vilar Center of the Arts in Beaver CreekInfo: Tickets are $10, and can be reserved by calling 845-TIXS

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Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or, Colorado

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