Thursday 7 May 2015

Bugsy Malone - Review

Lyric Hammersmith, London


Play by Alan Parker
Words and Music by Paul Williams
Directed by Sean Holmes

Zoe Brough

The list of gangster movies inspired by 1920’s prohibition-era Chicago is lengthy, but it was not to be until 1976 that British director Alan Parker was to redefine the genre with Bugsy Malone. His award-winning feature film was an inspired musical romp for children, with the classic themes of love and crime all scaled down to a kids-eye view of morality and with sub-machine guns converted to spray custard-pie “splurge” rather than murderous lead. 

Bugsy Malone is rarely seen on stage and the Lyric Hammersmith, re-opening now after a multi-million pound redevelopment, could not have chosen a more suitable show. With new facilities aimed at engaging young people and connecting with the community, Artistic Director Sean Holmes describes the show as “witty and ironic, heartfelt yet never sentimental” and as director, he delivers on his promise. 

From the opening sequence of ‘Splurge Gun’ shootings the world in which these junior mobsters thrive is teed up perfectly. Splurge aside, Holmes and his choreographer Drew McOnie do a fine job in ensuring the 7 youngsters playing lead roles alongside the 12 older ensemble members seamlessly deliver the show’s style and energy.  

The show has a history of being a launch pad for the stars of tomorrow with a young Jodie Foster having played gangster’s moll Tallulah in the movie, whilst in 1996 a youthful Sheridan Smith graced the National Youth Music Theatre’s production, in the same role. Impressing this time round (or at least on the night that the Baz was in) Zoe Brough as Blousey Brown sang Ordinary Fool with an innocence and honesty that ran throughout her performance. In the title role, Sasha Gray's performance is a charmer. 

While the young cast shine as individuals, the ensemble are electric together. Once again McOnie devises stunning dance and his company make it look easy. From car chase to boxing match there seems no limit to his creativity, which also manages to maintain a tongue in cheek playfulness, notably in Fat Sam’s gang’s group number Bad Guys.

Jon Bausor’s set design sees slick transitions from speakeasy to sidewalk, whilst Phil Bateman’s band makes perfect work of Williams’ gorgeously hummable tunes.

Staging the show meticulously, Holmes ensures that as all the splurge stays on stage, with audience faces only ending up spattered with smiles. Mounting a show so dependent on young shoulders is a risk for any creative team, yet the Lyric have found themselves with a sure-fire hit on their hands.

Runs until 1st August 2015

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