Anybody who is anybody must see Bugsy Malone. It is the gift that keeps on giving. What a treat that it is finally touring the UK.
It’s been almost 50 years since Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone was released, yet the musical still manages to capture the hearts of audiences. This stage adaptation is a wonderful, riotous production filled with big characters and attention-grabbing performances.
Bugsy Malone takes place in prohibition-era New York. When a rival gang begins attacking the patrons of Fat Sam’s speakeasy, Sam decides to take matters into his own hands and hires Bugsy to do his bidding, but Bugsy just wants to run away with his romantic interest, Blousey. Full of slapstick humour and fourth-wall-breaking moments, Bugsy Malone is a non-stop wild ride filled with action, romance, and glamour.
The band, orchestrated by Connagh Tonkinson, did Paul Williams’ iconic score justice, not a note fell flat. The period-specific costumes were very impressively rendered, managing to instantly transport us back to the 1920s. The production’s clever staging- courtesy of set designer Jon Bausor – includes tables which drop from the ceiling and a car that looks as though it’s racing towards the orchestra pit. Standout choreographed numbers ‘Fat Sam’s Grand Slam’, ‘My Name is Tallulah’, and ‘So You Wanna Be a Boxer’ all shine with enthusiasm and timelessness.
The young cast hold their own, not once was there a moment of hesitation onstage. The hard-boiled New York accent is difficult for even a seasoned performer to get their tongue around. The cast of Bugsy Malone (the majority of which are still in their early teens) tackle the thick drawl with no problem whatsoever, it’s easy to forget that this is a UK production.
Particularly comedic was speakeasy owner Fat Sam played by Albie Nelson, who had the audience in stitches at multiple points in the show. A special mention must also be given to Fayth Ifil (School of Rock, Tina Turner the Musical) who commands the stage as Tallulah, leaving the crowd wishing she had more musical numbers to make her own. Delilah Bennet-Cardy (A Christmas Carol, School of Rock) gives an incredibly mature performance as Bugsy’s strong-minded beau, Blousey, her voice perfectly suited to soulful numbers such as ‘I’m Feeling Fine’.
These solo performances were fantastic, but the ensemble’s effort really drew the whole production together. Not a slouchy arm or misplaced foot was in sight during the complex dance numbers, and the fantastic slapstick tone throughout was a joy to watch.
The first half is a pleasant introduction to the characters and Bugsy’s world, and the second half ramps up into a full-blown adventure story: hit after hit mixed in with some very inventive staging of boxing sequences and the use of a full-scale staircase. Ultimately, the crowd were on their feet by the encore, what every performer hopes for on the opening night.
The only (very minor criticism) that could be levied against the production was that the custard guns just needed to be more custard-y. At times there is some confusion if characters have actually been murdered due to the guns sounding aggressively real. If it’s safe for the cast, a bit more cream is needed.
Perfect for families and audiences of any age, Bugsy Malone is a must-see musical. Make sure to catch it while it’s in town!
Bugsy Malone is at Manchester Opera House until November 12 – and tours the UK until late February 2023.