Bugsy Malone The Musical
Book by Alan Parker; music and lyrics by Paul Williams
Alexandra Palace Theatre
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Alan Parker and Paul Williams’s Bugsy Malone is one of the most iconic films in the 20th century, bringing generations of children to stage in a rich line-up of parts for junior mobsters. Sean Holmes’s Olivier Award-winning musical is updated here for this latest run at Alexandra Palace Theatre, ideally timed for the Christmas and New Year holiday season.
Essentially, it’s a musical about Prohibition-era gangsters running around town, gunning each other down in ’20s Chicago, the only difference in Bugsy Malone being that the chief gangsters are children, whilst the adults are minor characters and the guns fire cream pies or shaving foam in some sort of giant surreal, violent schoolyard game.
The production looks fabulous. Jon Bausor’s speakeasy set with centrepiece shabby wrought iron staircase captures a heady sense of the underworld, all atmospherically lit by Philip Gladwell, creating a moody, seedy underbelly lurking behind the bright, sharp lights of speakeasy fun. Bausor’s costumes are bang on era trend with colourful ostrich-feathered flapper girls set against the boys' pinstriped suits and mafia hats.
Drew McOnie’s choreography fizzles with pizazz, imbuing the big some and dance numbers with snappy, toe-tapping energy. Bad Guys and So You Wanna Be a Boxer are pitched to perfection in both vocals and terrific movement.
Parker’s songs are wonderful and, even though there are only ten numbers included in the musical, they’re each perfectly executed. And the finale classic, “You give a little love and it all comes back to you”, brings the audience up on their feet, partying with the cast in nostalgic fun.
The only drawback to a genuinely entertaining evening is down to acoustics that don't always carry and fill the beautifully renovated but cavernous space of Alexandra Palace. Speech is sometimes muffled and it's not always easy to follow the dialogue between actors, which is a shame given the youth of the cast, pouring their utmost into performance and projection of characterisation.
Still, Bugsy’s sweetheart Tallulah, Taziva-Faye Katsande, stands out with an impressive vocal range for a young person. Katsande’s jazzy rendition of "My Name is Tallulah", which opens the show’s stronger second half, is the triumphant vocal winner of the show. And the whole cast must be commended for giving the performance all they've got, even with the limitations of small people in big spaces.
You may not hear everything, but this is a joyous family show oozing with precocious talent and sassy charm and a wonderful addition to the Christmas theatre season. A real treat for local theatregoers.
Reviewer: Rachel Nouchi