The kids are more than alright in Bugsy Malone – they’re pretty damn talented. The musical adaptation of the 1976 comedy spoof, in which children play gangsters armed with ‘splurge guns’ and pies, raises a weapon, and a smile which stays there.
Our titular protagonist (played by brilliant and bouncy Gabriel Payne) is the do-gooder longing for a future with love interest Blousey (Mia Lakha), yet caught up in a war between mobsters Fat Sam (Albie Snelson) and Dandy Dan (Desmond Cole) when he serves as the former’s driver. And if one isn’t familiar with the plot, then one will certainly recognise the hit number, You Give A Little Love. All of this is to say that conflicts are, quite literally, childish.
Well, the youngsters do an impressive job of impersonating adults. Snelson’s Fat Sam masters the ‘politician’s thumb’, the one arm tucked tightly to the chest to suggest authority. Bugsy is equally exaggerative in his gesticulations (namely finger guns) and dancing – the choreography of which is done by Drew McOnie. Even away from the characterisations, Lakha’s performance of Ordinary Fool is incredible. Rapid flashing towards the end of the first act, amid a speedy getaway, creates a thrilling stop motion effect which serves as
On the whole, Bugsy Malone doesn’t take itself too seriously, and given the nature of the show, you wouldn’t expect it to. Though that is not to say that there aren’t a few slip-ups here and there (and I’m not talking about the banana skins left on the floor). In the original film, Bugsy and Blousey are the only two not left covered in cake (which is basically symbolism for being dead), and yet as a result of being thrust to the back of the stage, Bugsy is seen with a less than clean suit at the end. There’s also a few flat performances with ‘straight’ dialogue here and there, removing the characters of some extra emotion in an extravagant, glamorous production.
Though that doesn’t stop Bugsy Malone from being an immensely satisfying and pleasing musical. The main members of the cast may be small, but the show is joyously larger than life.
Bugsy Malone is now playing at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre until 14 August before touring the UK until summer 2023.
British Sign Language-interpreted (BSL), captioned, audio described and relaxed performances are due to take place on 4, 6, 9 and 11 August respectively.
Production Images: Johan Persson.
Disclaimer: I was invited to watch ‘Bugsy Malone’ for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for the above article and all opinions stated are honest and my own.