The glitz and glamour of New York, showgirls and speakeasies, gangsters and Hollywood dreams. New love and old rivalries. All the classic ingredients for a dramatic story filled with tension and excitement. Just swap the bullets for cream, throw in some jazzy tunes – and cast all the main characters as children.
Bugsy Malone is the nearly 50-year-old movie musical that still inspires all ages today, and is now back on stage in its latest UK tour. Featuring a revolving cast of 18 children plus an ensemble of ‘big’ kids, it’s an entertaining feat directed by Sean Holmes.
With a simple set by Jon Bausor – who also designed the fantastic costumes – the show encapsulates that innocent joy of kids playing dress up, giving the feeling of being inside their imagination in the glittering world of Hoodlums and high-kicks.
The ensemble worked seamlessly with their shorter colleagues, and their matched energy throughout numbers like Do You Wanna Be a Boxer and Down and Out filled the stage with a buzz that I’d argue surpasses the original film.
Whilst the show is undoubtedly enormous fun, it’s also complicated, and the musical numbers are not easy for even the most seasoned singer. Aidan Oti performing Fizzy’s Tomorrow broke everyone’s hearts, while Delilah Bennet-Cardy was a remarkably confident and self-assured Blousey Brown. Her performance of Ordinary Fool showed off not just her already strong vocal range, but her emotional maturity too.
Gabriel Payne was a charming and slick Bugsy, with great timing and presence – despite being one of the smallest on stage. Encapsulating Bugsy’s quick-wittedness with his warm positivity, Payne travelled the highs and lows of success and defeat with determination.
Albie Snelson near enough stole the show as the open-armed but often wary Fat Sam, dealing with his numskull gang with exasperation laced with good humour, a booming laugh and iconic Italian mob-boss style.
The choreography by Drew McOnie and fight direction by Kate Waters are to be applauded, managing the differences in cast members’ heights and strength and producing quality spectacles. Bad Guys performed by Fat Sam’s gang was a particular stand out filled with comedy, whilst the car chase – a scene I was particularly intrigued by how it’d translate from screen to stage – ingenuously utilised strobe effects (lighting designed by Philip Gladwell) to build the speed and sense of disarray.
My only wish would have been to see more splurge! The joy of the film finale is in the cream-filled chaos. Though I’m sure the production team would be having a heart attack, a little more froth would’ve been the cherry on top.
To step into a world where shot-down gangsters get up again with an ‘Oh man!’, pint-sized divas are carried around on be-suited shoulders, and rivalries are resolved with cream and a piano, is to take a break from reality. The final number You Give a Little Love is a sweeter-than-pie salve, ready for you to pull out your best jazz hands.
Review written for Matinee Radio