This semester BASIS International School Park Lane Harbour (BIPH) led an immersive musical performance of Bugsy Malone that collaborated across multiple departments including AP Art, History, and English. The Advanced Drama class, ASA Club, and Grade 12 Capstone class were a critical part of this show in choreographing dance, directing actors, documenting the production process, making the promotional video, and communicating with the engineering club to create the amazing “splurge gun” models that were used in the show. The support of the BIPH community and all of the helpers made this show not only flashy and entertaining but also an educational and thought-provoking success. The memories created in both the process of putting everything together and in running the show will last a lifetime for our teachers, the cast, and the audience.
An Immersive Experience
Bugsy Malone is a 1920s gangster comedy musical about a city full of mobsters, showgirls, and dreamers. The audience was invited to explore the glamour and strife of the 1920s with a pre-show entertainment presented by AP American History, Post AP English Literature and Language, Engineering Lab, Film Studies, Music, AP Art, and Drama students. Then the audience was taken to a secret entrance into Fat Sam’s Speakeasy Club, to be part of the prohibition-era theatrical experience and watch the show performed by Advanced Drama and Theatre Production ASA Club performers.
Costumes and hats that fit the period were worn by the audience to match the students’ wonderful performance. A real 1920s feel was created as lines and dance interacted with the music. The performance took place on stage and even in the audience’s midst, with the audience turning around from time to time to follow the young performers–attendees were truly part of the immersive performance.
A School-Wide Collaboration
In addition to the dedication of the art teachers and student artists, the success of the spring musical could not have been achieved without the cooperation and coordination of all school departments, including the excellent humanities teachers who also led their classes to get involved, learning about the history and culture of the period, designing the musical’s warm-up games, posters, English poetry books, and even participating in the musical with the students!
Post AP English Class
Shared by Ms.Kassi Tallent, AP English teacher
The Post AP English Classes conducted topical research on important cultural aspects of the period, including advertising, cinema, music, and sports. The students’ work from this unit contributed to establishing a 1920s atmosphere around the Black Box Theater leading up to the Drama Department’s production of “Bugsy Malone.” It was wonderful to have the chance to coordinate these learning activities between the History, Drama, and English departments. Projects like this help to foster students’ enjoyment and appreciation of culture, which is something we hope they will carry with them long past their high school days.
Shared by Mr. Dale Wood, AP English teacher
Post AP English classes studied F. Scott Fitzgerald’s amazing American novel, The Great Gatsby, during this last semester. This novel corresponded to the period of history our Grade 11 students have been exploring in AP US History. Since the school musical this year is Bugsy Malone, which happens to be set in New York City in the 1920s, we felt this would be a great opportunity to involve our students and help them to vitally relate to the time period and the cultural spirit of that historical period.
To help our students internalize the zeitgeist of the Roaring 20s as well as support and participate in the production of Bugsy Malone, BASIS International School Park Lane Harbour decided to stage a 1920s salon. Each student chose a historical figure from the 1920s and then adopted that person’s persona and costume. Students chose film stars like Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, and Clara Bow, athletes like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and cultural figures like Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, Coco Chanel and Calvin Coolidge. F. Scott Fitzgerald himself was also chosen for this activity.
Students were asked to research the individual, using at least two credible sources, finding information about their background, personal life, career, politics, religion, marriage(s), and cultural influence. They prepared a 2-3 minute “introduction” to the character and located a “photo” of the individual which was blown up and displayed in the Black Box foyer to help advertise and promote the show. Students prepared a costume that would help each to portray their respective character.
Students used class time to practice as a class, introducing themselves in character and in costume. Then they spent the entire period answering questions and sharing their character’s perspectives on issues like Prohibition, Economic Progress, Women’s Rights and the growth of celebrity. On the evening of opening night, March 8th, our Post AP students came early to help put on a “pre-show” in the foyer. Students “cosplayed” as their characters in the Black Box foyer, greeting and engaging with the theater goers before they were taken to Fat Sam’s speakeasy.
AP U.S History Class
Shared by Mr. Justin Harris, AP U.S. History teacher
The AP U.S. History students completed two cross-curricular projects in collaboration with the Drama department in order to create timelines and news articles in preparation for the musical production of Bugsy Malone. Through this collaboration, students delved into the historical context of the 1920s and 1930s, examining the cultural, economic, and political events of the era, including prohibition and the Great Depression. By connecting the historical context of the show to the production process, students gain a more nuanced understanding of the time period and develop their creative thinking skills. This cross-curricular project exemplifies the value of interdisciplinary learning in creating an engaging and holistic education. The students were proud to see their work admired by the audience members of the musical and we look forward to participating in more projects as the school year continues.
A Huge Success
We want to thank all the teachers and students who worked so hard on this immersive musical of Bugsy Malone. The play was a huge success and was a testament to how well a school can work collaboratively together across all departments to put on a truly excellent performance with many facets and learning opportunities. We look forward to future productions to showcase the many talents of our students.