Based on the 1976 film starring Jodie Foster, Bugsy Malone is a 1920’s gangster movie musical with one special twist. The main characters are all children. Machine guns fire custard, payment is made with lollipops and when someone does something wrong they get a custard pie thrown in their face.
After a multi-million-pound re-development, the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith has re-opened with Olivier Award winning Director Sean Holmes’s new version of this classic musical which is sure to get a West End transfer. The first act was slightly distracting, with latecomers entering the theatre mid-song. Most theatres hold punters back from entering until a suitable break in the performance (usually during the applause after a number) and the Lyric could do well to adopt this idea.
A brilliant set design by Jon Bausor, transports the audience back to the dark and gloomy streets of Chicago in the 1920’s, with smoke coming out of the rusty pipes on the old stairwells. Blousey Brown (Zoe Brough) arrives to try to make fame and fortune as a singer. When a position opens up at Fat Sams Speakeasy, she runs to audition but Fat Sam has bigger things on his mind. Dandy Dan (Oliver Emery) is trying to take over his club and will stop at nothing to get it. With the help of Bugsy Malone (Sasha Gray), they work to fight off Dandy Dan and his men and keep the club from harm. Meanwhile Bugsy falls for Blousey. To show his love for her, he decides to take her to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming a singer, he just needs to make enough money first. Can Bugsy get together the cash or will he be caught up in the fight with Dandy Dan and lose Blousey for ever?
Choreography by Drew McOnie is brilliantly done with a very impressive slo-motion car chase scene and some great group numbers.
The star of this show is undoubtedly Sasha Gray (Bugsy Malone), with an adorable face, great charisma and brilliant acting he is sure to make a splash on the West End scene. He even surprised me with his dancing at the end of the show (quite the little mover). Zoe Brough was great as the sparkly eyed Blousey, searching for fame and fortune. Oliver Emery looked like a mini Macaulay Culkin as Dandy Dan and despite his size, carried off the role of an adult well. Jenson Steele (who originated the role of Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) gave a great camp performance as Fat Sam and got most of the laughs during the show. Although a small part, Emily Beacock brought a smile to everyone’s face as Lena, the diva performer at Fat Sams club.
Bugsy Malone is a classic musical that is sure to be a hit in Hammersmith and hopefully go on to have a run in the West End. This production has everything needed to slot right in amongst some of the big shows in theatre land.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Bugsy Malone is playing at the Lyric Hammersmith until 1 August 2015. Click here for tickets
Photo: Manuel Harlan