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Photo by Aviva Cohen.

Photo by Aviva Cohen.

Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


By Kevin Wynne for the Winnipeg Jewish Review, June 1, 2010

Brock Corydon School's musical production for 2010 was a delightful twist on the perennially popular New York story of Bugsy Malone, a fast-moving period piece whose title character is a likeable rogue in 1920s New York. The production served as a late-spring showcase for the school's music and arts curricula, especially given the scope of the Bugsy Malone piece and the opportunities provided for the children who participated.

“There's an energy, an excitement and pride amongst students and parents as a result of staging such a production,” says Brock Corydon teacher Leah Braemer, one of several school staff members involved in staging the program.

“Brock Corydon usually chooses a musical from the Broadway Jr. Collection because the music has been transposed for middle-years voices. As I explored the musicals offered in that collection, I really liked the music and songs from Bugsy Malone.  I felt that the 1920s era would offer me lots of creative choreography possibilities, and I thought there was a story to tell. When I choose a musical, I have to see and feel the creative potential of the production, and I also have to choose something I think will appeal to the students—even if it's something that isn't familiar.”

Four May performances – two matinees and two evening presentations – showcased the school's deep talent pool as they sang, danced and acted with unbridled enthusiasm throughout the 75-minute show.

Unrelenting enthusiasm from the charming casts and performances—veering frequently into slapstick—kept things fresh and interesting in the two performances that this writer attended.

Casting is a critical part of any production's success, says Braemer.

“Ella Golubchik, Pam Appel and I auditioned the students, and then cast parts with input from classroom teachers. Obviously being able to sing is a bottom-line criterion for most parts in a musical. We also want to make sure that students from both programs at our school are represented.”

“We consider who will be able to assume a leadership role, and who will benefit from being give a special part. All our grade 5 and grade 6 students participate in the chorus, and any student who comes out to audition is given a part. I adapt the play to create parts to accommodate the large number of students who audition (over 70 of the 80-something this year) and I add or embellish roles as we begin rehearsing, as I get to know the students, and see what they can do.”

Braemer, who is also the South District Literacy Through the Arts support teacher, suggests that the benefits to participating in a production like this for the school's students are huge: “Increased self-confidence that spills over into other areas of life - more reserved students suddenly begin to speak up during class discussions, reticent learners start working harder, new friendships develop, students discover new passions, boys sign up for dance classes, students enroll in drama or voice.”

Overall, the ensemble sounded fresh and genuinely committed to the piece, sending their families and friends out into the night humming the show's catchy tunes.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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