It’s hard to believe Hollywood legend Jodie Foster’s movie career was launched in Alan Parker’s innovative gangster spoof where all the roles were played by a cast with an average of 12.
For this stage production of the battle between gang bosses Fat Sam and Dandy Dan for control of the soda pop racket in 1920s New York, as hustler Bugsy Malone vies for the affections of nightclub singer Blousey, the producers have decided to cast some very young performers as the leads. This left some of the diction a little indistinct up in the gods and some of the big numbers a touch underpowered. Many of these committed young performers will no doubt go onto successful professional careers as more experienced performers have often struggled to fill this big space.
Some of those issues are amplified by a hard-working ensemble of more seasoned performers who rightly do a lot of the dramatic heavy lifting. It is to their credit that they allow the younger performers space on John Basuor’s flexible set to develop their performances as the pace really picks up in the second half.
Parker’s book and songs by Oscar winner Paul Williams have stood the test of time, with Shaun Shamra well cast in the title role as the affable hustler, and Fayth Ifil offering a confident gangster’s moll as Tallulah in the role that made Foster a star.
The hugely experienced choreographer Drew McOnie gives the talented ensemble plenty of great work to do, especially on an energetic and complex routine for So You Wanna Be A Boxer?, and the final fight scene was a chaotic delight. Philip Gladwell’s lighting design was cleverly done during a complicated car chase sequence as Bugsy and Fat Sam make a getaway that is skilfully played by leads and ensemble alike.
For fans of the film there is one notable absence, which is probably due to health and safety considerations, so you will just have to use your imagination like the rest of us.
When people are paying good money in hard times to watch a show you have to tell it like it is no matter where performers are in their careers, but this is a lively production that will appeal to fans of the movie and families looking for a much-needed fun night out.
Bugsy Malone is at Leeds Grand Theatre until Saturday 3rd September. To book www.leedsheritagetehatrs.com or 0113 2430808.
Reviewer: Paul Clarke
Reviewed: 30th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★