All the words that best describe The Bully would damn with faint praise any other show. But in the case of this new children's musical, phrases like "utterly charming" and "totally adorable" really do apply, in the best possible way.
The story is resolutely simple: Smart kid Lenny (Scott Lilly) and school bully Steve (Stephen Stocking, filling in for William DeMeritt at the performance I saw) accidentally end up at a new school where neither one is the smartest or the toughest. In addition, there is a terrifying new bully named Mega (Diane Zelenka) and her band of weak-willed minions to deal with.
Though John Gregor's songs don't remain in your head like the best—or worst, depending upon your point of view—children's music, they're entirely serviceable. And as Lenny and Steve, Lilly and Stocking achieve the rare distinction of never mugging for the kids in the audience—something Zelenka should work on. Filling out the rest of the cast, John Magalhaes, Monique Beasley, and George E. Salazar perform their various functions with aplomb, and Kyle Minshew goes as far over the top as director Troy Miller will allow him as the various adults, including, in a welcome nod to the adults in attendance, two vice principals named Agnew and Quayle and a history teacher named Mrs. Roosevelt.
Brisk, clever, and sunny, The Bully is ultimately the type of entertaining educational musical for which it's easy to envision a life of touring schools across the country.
Presented by Vital Theater Company
at Bleecker Street Theatre, 45 Bleecker St., NYC.
July 6–Aug. 2. Sat., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.
(212) 579-0528 or www.vitaltheatre.org.