Review: Bugsy Malone
Sayana Turpin-Aviram was entertained by Bugsy Malone, a subversive take on the world of 1920s gangsters.
We all love the thrill and dazzle of a classic 1920s drama filled with love-struck flappers and bootlegging gangsters.
Sometimes, however, it is fun to watch such classic themes get subverted and turned into a farcical tale of exaggerated 1920’s stereotypes singing, dancing and attacking each other with silly string and foam pies.
The large cast ensured that the stage was almost always filled with entertaining action. Group dance routines by speakeasy swingers, messy surprise attacks by sexy assassins in black dresses, the twitching and tumbling of inept gangster cronies, and even an unexpected musical number about boxing.
Generally, the action and hilarity of the acting and the plot picked up in the second half (or at least, I laughed more at that point!). Amongst the bustle and movement were moments of individual focus, occasions when the main case dipped into a more serious note, which naturally fit the rolling comedic pace of the play.
Leo Benedict as Bugsy Malone performed with high energy, distinct character and an amusing accent, which carried the performance well considering the amount of stage time he had as the lead. Bugsy provided a likeable, eyebrow-waggling leading man whose positive, witty demeanour contrasted well with the practical yet secretly hopeful of his beau, the aspiring singer Blousey.
Abi Duckham (playing Blousey) held her own on stage despite this being her first theatre production which only showed sometimes in a slight lack of the ease with which actors already used to the stage carry off their parts. Particularly impressive were Abi’s musical solos, her voice standing out from many of the others on stage. Tallulah provided a stark contrast with Blousey’s character as she strutted into scenes to add an air of sexuality and style; Sophia Luu carried the part off well. I especially enjoyed her solo number that kicked off the second half of the play with style.
Meanwhile, Alex O’Brien as Fat Sam and Luke Dell as Dandy Dan were amusing in their portrayal of the stereotypical war for the streets between the ultimate ‘scary’ and ‘sneaky’ gangster chiefs. As Fat Sam struggled, seemingly hopelessly against Dandy Dan’s ‘deadly splurge guns (spoiler: they fire a lot of silly string everywhere), Alex’s performance became increasingly hilarious as his character began to unravel under the pressure, his best moment was probably when he recited Romeo’s swansong monologue in a growling Italian New Yorker accent. The crime lord of splurge guns and pies, Dandy Dan, was a pompous yet weaselly villain as acted by Luke, whose thin moustache and menacing air were amusingly caricatured.
Having the orchestra live on a balcony upstage was definitely a positive contribution to the atmosphere of this lively musical. The chorus action onstage was fun if a little unpolished, and some moments definitely shined with musical promise. I enjoyed the mixture of classic 20’s music and a few modern references in both the humour and the singing.
If you’re in the mood for some light-hearted musical amusement and a vintage setting head down to the Fitzpatrick Hall to watch Bugsy Malone.