Bugsy Malone UK Tour Review (Theatre Royal Plymouth)
Catchy songs, custard pies and peddle cars, ‘Bugsy Malone’ is a classic. Seen as a gangster movie for kids, it takes us back to 1920’s New York, when Speakeasy’s were all the rage and gang warfare was rife. The popular 1976 film saw the entire cast consist of children, playing adult roles with their singing voices dubbed by adults, so how exactly does that transfer to the stage.
Directed by Sean Holmes and choreographed by Drew McOnie, this Lyric Hammersmith production of ‘Bugsy Malone’ stays true enough to the film whilst adding its own style, with the main characters continuing to be played by children whilst adults take on the ensemble roles.
At this performance, the role of Bugsy Malone was played by Gabriel Payne, and I can safely say that this young star has a bright future ahead of him. This pocket rocket commands the stage with ease and charm, making the iconic character of Bugsy his own and creating a sweet and believable bond with Mia Lakha’s Blousey Brown. Lakha boasts impressive vocals for her young age, giving a mature and authentic performance as the young singer with dreams of Hollywood.
Albie Snelson proves himself to be a bit of scene stealer as gang leader Fat Sam, with every action dripping with sass and cheekiness as he breaks the fourth wall and earns many a laugh throughout, especially in a certain act 2 scene in which he has to adopt a true ‘the show must go on’ attitude. Jasmine Sakyiama’s Tullulah is classy and full of attitude, knowing what she wants and knowing exactly how to get it and Desmond Cole’s gang leader Dandy Dan makes it look easy to boss around the adult cast members playing his gang of hoodlums. Aiden Oti and Cherry Mitra, the smallest cast members, impress as Fizzy and Lena/Babyface, with Oti earning great applause for his rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ and Mitra earning awws for her takes on performer Lena and the much-loved babyface.
The adult cast jump from role to role, playing gang members, speakeasy dancers and boxers, filling the stage with McOnie’s exciting choreography throughout, with ‘So You Want To Be A Boxer’ proving particularly impressive.
If you have seen the film version ‘Bugsy Malone’ you will know that it is famed for its Splurge guns, which spray their victims with copious amounts of custard. Whilst the guns are still used in this production, the mess factor has been very much scaled down, meaning that the weapons do perhaps loose a bit of their comedic effect with the load of gun sound effects used throughout making them feel a little bit more machine gun than paint (custard) guns.
This production has given ‘Bugsy Malone’ a new lease of life, lifting it and making it appeal to both adults and children alike with its gangster storyline, fun songs and comedy take on warfare complete with custard pies and peddle cars. The audience are hanging on every word of the performers throughout with the curtain call complete with its modern twist on the songs sending the audience home with huge smiles on their faces. It’s a crowd pleaser that I’m sure will go from strength to strength both as a popular show and as a springboard for the talented stars of the future in its child cast.