Managing a mob

A BAC Stage Kids rehearsal of Bugsy Malone Jr. is hilarious, frantic fun

It’s total chaos.

Babyface, whose grin reveals two missing front teeth, has just splattered a huge whipped-cream pie into the face of one of Dandy Dan’s goons. All 20 or so of the Down-and-Outers should be running triumphantly across the stage, but they can’t stop giggling and staring at the fallen mobster, who—despite the fact that he has been “moidered” by the pie—is also cracking up through the thick, white goo.

“Ewwww!” one girl cries.

Director Carol Scott rushes from her post at the front of the stage.

“No laughing! No laughing! Don’t look at him!”

Scott herds the children toward stage left and sternly reminds them that there’s still a play going on. They quiet down—sort of—but most continue to crane their necks for another glimpse.

Scott strides back, but her serious facade crumbles when she sees the gooey kid laughing, and she breaks out into a grin.

“Just keep your eyes closed,” she offers helpfully.

It’s only one week until opening night, and the 80 children in the cast of Bugsy Malone Jr. are forgetting their lines, stumbling through their dance routines and losing their composure. To the untrained eye, this rehearsal looks like a disaster. But 16-year-old stage manager Carol Petersen, who has been doing this for four years, will assure you that this is perfectly normal.

“Before today, you think, ‘Oh, my gosh! Is it going to come together?’ “ she says. “But it always does.”

The BAC Stage Kids, the children’s theater group at the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City, have been working on this hilarious Prohibition-era gangster musical since October, and they’re on the home stretch. They’ve got one week left, called “tech week,” and everything—the lights, the music, the whipped-cream pies—has got to click.

Or not.

“Half the time, the audience doesn’t even notice [mistakes],” Petersen says. “They just figure it’s a part of the play.”

And frankly, the mistakes are just plain adorable. An exchange between Dandy Dan (Domenic Procaccini) and Fat Sam (Jon Josten) goes something like this:

“Hi, Dan!”

“Sam. I’m Sam. You’re Dan!”

Oops. The two boys crack up and start over.

Later, the speakeasy girls jostle each other for position in a chorus line, leaving one girl stranded at center stage as the rest begin the dance routine without her. Another group of kids, who are supposed to be marching in unison, stomp so enthusiastically (and so offbeat) that they drown out the lead characters’ lines.

Moments like these are even funnier than the play, which is a good thing, because it was hard to discern the plot in all the craziness of the rehearsal. Apparently, Dandy Dan is a mobster, who is trying to close down Fat Sam’s speakeasy, and Bugsy somehow gets caught up in the middle of it all. Throw in some romantic comedy and a score by the same composer for The Muppet Movie, and you’ve got yourself a play.

With 80 kids to manage, Scott has to do a lot of shouting during the rehearsal, but none of the children really seem to notice. When Scott yells “Louder!” over their heartfelt solos, they just keep singing. When she pokes her head through the backstage curtains and demands silence, the young actors on stage hardly miss a beat.

It’s showbiz. They’re all just happy to be there.

Well, all except the kid who got creamed with the pie. The pie-in-the-face routine just isn’t his thing. Another boy really wants to be splattered; can they switch places?

Of course, Scott replies. After all, they’ve got a whole week to practice it.