We received complimentary press tickets to Bugsy Malone for the purpose of this review
Like many of you I’m sure, Bugsy Malone was a childhood staple for me, a film I’ve seen time and again with a soundtrack I know inside out. Starring Scott Baio and Jodie Foster, Alan Parker wrote his 1974 movie musical with his children in mind. He took the stories of New York gangsters and show girls in prohibition-era New York and transformed it into a mobster movie acted entirely by children, ditching ‘real’ guns for ones loaded with cream, and set around a speakeasy serving contraband fizzy drinks. There’s love, jealousy, warring bar owners, big dreams, a drive-by raid, plus an unforgettable soundtrack from Paul Williams featuring such memorable hits as Fat Sam’s Grand Slam, Bad Guys and Give A Little Love, familiar to the cast and audiences of countless school and amateur productions over the last few decades.
Amazingly, considering what a well-loved classic it is, there’s never been a professional touring production of Bugsy Malone – so it’s a very excited audience that enters the auditorium at last night’s opening performance of its week-long run at Wales Millennium Centre.
Read on for our full review plus check out my Reel on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram feed for a little snapshot of what to expect. It’s on until Saturday and there are still tickets available, more information here.
One can appreciate a professional production featuring only children would be logistically difficult so here we have the youngsters in the key roles, with the supporting cast played by older performers who lead on the chorus numbers and provide some wondrous choreography, with echoes of the musicals of old.
The kids are fantastic, with each of the lead characters played on rotation by three performers. Unlike the film, where the musical numbers feature the children miming to adult voices, here the kids sing their songs themselves – and what strong and competent performers they are.
Gabriel Payne is a cheeky and charismatic Bugsy. Mia Lakha as Blouseyand Jasmine Sakyiama as Tallulah sing with a musicality that belies their tender years, while Albie Snelson as Fat Sam is confident, witty and has a fantastic stage presence. He was my eight year old’s favourite, with great comic timing and many of the best one-liners.
The adults meanwhile drive the likes of Bad Guys and Fat Sam’s Grand Slam with stage-filling choreography, while So You Want To Be A Boxer is given a new lease of life in an energetic and acrobatic rendition which far surpasses the film version.
The finale number was an unexpected delight which put a modern spin on the classic songs, featuring some fantastic freestyle moves from the kids. It certainly got everyone up on their feet and dancing.
Age-wise, the official guidance is 6+ and the running time is a very manageable two hours including interval. I took my eight year old who has seen the film previously, although admittedly a long time ago, and he really enjoyed it. He was laughing out loud and bopping along to the musical numbers, although I think it being a little dialogue-heavy and slow-paced at times meant he got a little confused with the plot.
There also wasn’t anywhere near enough squirty cream in those splurge guns. It’s what everyone remembers from the film after all, and the silliness of it all gets a little lost with the tiny barely-noticeable splats. I can appreciate cleaning up a huge mess every night would be a nightmare for the back stage team, not to mention the health and safety implications of a stage covered in cream, but the sparse measures definitely meant it lost impact.
In all though, this is a fun and energetic production, providing much nostalgia for the grown ups and introducing a new generation to the delights of a prohibition era New York populated by kids. It’s on until Saturday; go see it if you can.
Bugsy Malone is at Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 21 January. Tickets are still available, for more information visit the website here.