BUGSY MALONE – Theatre Royal Plymouth


18 October 2022

5*****

It seems almost inconceivable that it has taken 46 years to bring the musical ‘Bugsy Malone’ on a UK stage tour; but the 1976 film has defeated producers for that length of time. A long-time staple of schools and am dram companies, this wonderful vehicle for young people has found a happy medium in dealing with the logistical issues attached to such a show. Conceived by Alan Parker as a film only starring children, this is how it works best, but a national tour presents too many problems, so while the main roles are taken by younger actors an adult ensemble fills in the secondary characters – it works pretty well. I have seen a version completely performed by adults – it was not a success.

Set in the period of Prohibition in the US; the plot takes the form of the gangster films of the 1930s and 1940s and transforms them into a world where pies and ‘splurge’ guns are the weapons and getaway cars are powered by pedals. It is wonderful escapism. With a witty script from Parker and a tremendous raft of songs by Paul Williams – which have become so well known in their own right –  this is one of those special treats which don’t come along too often – an original and vibrant musical.

Jon Bausor’s cleverly fluid set makes the perfect backdrop for the action and his costumes shimmer on the whole cast. The lighting design of Philip Gladwell offers great atmosphere and the sound design of Ben Harrison is perfectly balanced throughout. Under Connagh Tonkinson, the musicians throw themselves into the sparkling score where instruments like the banjolele and the ukulele are wonderfully prominent.

Drew McOnie brings his considerable experience and talent to the fore with clever and fresh choreography without for one minute playing down the routines for the less experienced members of the cast. ‘So You Wanna Be A Boxer’ is a top class production number and the way it evolves ahead of the music is classy.

The tour has three teams of young performers and so I can only speak for those who appeared at this performance. As Bugsy, the diminutive figure of Gabriel Payne stands out; his CV is very impressive for one so young and his performance is full of the cheeky look and the smiling face. His voice is crystal clear and when he gets the chance to sing (in “Down and Out’) he does it magnificently. Mia Lakha is ideal as the feisty, but vulnerable Blousey Brown and performs her songs in the most delightful voice. Albie Snelson, well, what can be said; as Fat Sam he is a superb; his comic talents are out of the top drawer, his performance is big in every sense and is as impressive as any other I have seen this year. A complete joy!

Jasmine Sakyiama is beautifully voiced and slinky as Fat Sam’s moll Tallulah and Aidan Oti is absolutely perfect as the cleaner Fizzy; his ‘Tomorrow’ is heart-rending and memorable. Desmond Cole is the cool and sophisticated Dandy Dan; a small improvement in his intonation will help enormously. A super little double-cameo from Cherry Mitra as Lena and Babyface which really brings a smile to everyone’s faces.

One disappointment – the ‘splurge’ – it was rather hard to see – this may have been a wardrobe request or a health and safety measure, but the climax of the show should be slapstick joy, but it is a bit of a damp squib.

This is a bold and wonderful production which takes risks to ensure the show is seen on the professional stage – kudos in big measure to the excellent direction of Sean Holmes – and I believe it works and works well, not least because of the quality of the young performers who are not outclassed in any field.

Fun, joyful and thrilling – a family show which strikes all the right notes.


CAST & CREATIVES

BUGSY – GABRIEL PAYNE

BLOUSEY – MIA LAKHA

FAT SAM – ALBIE SNELSON

TALLULAH – JASMINE SAKYIAMA

FIZZY – AIDAN OTI

LENA/BABYFACE – CHERRY MITRA

DANDY DAN – DESMOND COLE

ENSEMBLE – MOHAMED BANGURA, MARCUS BILLANY, KALIFA BURTON, ALISHA CAPON, JESSICA DAUGRIDA, RORY FRASER, ANDILE MABHENA, LUKE MILLS, LUCHIA MOSS, GEORGIA PEMBERTON, D’MIA LINDSAY WALKER, THOMAS WALTON, LUCY YOUNG

SWING – ALICIA ALLY, ESME BACALLA-HAYES, RU FISHER, ALICIA BELGARDE, WILL LUCAS


BOOK – ALAN PARKER

MUSIC & LYRICS – PAUL WILLIAMS

DIRECTOR – SEAN HOLMES

MUSICAL DIRECTOR – CONNAGH TONKINSON

CHOREOGRAPHER – DREW MCONIE

SET & COSTUME DESIGN – JON BAUSOR

LIGHTING DESIGN – PHILIP GLADWELL

SOUND DESIGN – BEN HARRISON

PHOTO IMAGE – JOHAN PERSON

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