Tuesday, August 16

Bugsy Malone – The Rep, Birmingham

This revival production, originally seen in the West End in 2015, has come to Birmingham for two weeks, in the summer holidays, as part of its first professional tour.

Bugsy Malone first started life as a musical film where it’s use of child actors playing every role as adults, made it stand out from the crowd.

Keeping to this idea, seven of the principal roles are played by children. The adult ensemble takes all the other roles filling the stage and performing with the principals in the musical numbers.

Set loosely in prohibition America, Bugsy Malone transports us to the age of gangsters, flappers and mob rivalry. However as this is a family friendly show, the gangs are running a soda business and the guns fire “Splurge” the next step in custard pie weaponry. Fat Sam’s Speakeasy and business is under threat from rival mob boss Dandy Dan. Blousey Brown is looking for her big break and meets city slicker Bugsy Malone. Will Blousey get her dream, will Fat Sam rule the streets and how is Bugsy involved in everything?

With a show of this length (under 2 hours) and with this many characters, it is hard to go into any depth with the story. What the show lacks in storyline however is more than made up for with the outstanding musical numbers.

Photo: Johan Persson

Everything about the songs brings a smile to your face. The choreography from Drew McOnie is sublime, sharp and crisp but at the same time flows seamlessly between moves. “So you want to be a boxer” is a perfect example of this as it builds from a few individuals “training” into a complex and beautiful creation of a boxing ring. I could happily watch these musical numbers again and again.

They may be small, but they are mighty! The young principals have talent above their years. Gabriel Payne’s Bugsy is slick and streetwise and gave a show stopping performance with “Down and Out”.  Fat Sam was played with confidence and humour by Albie Snelson, especially as he broke the fourth wall doing his own scene change. Both female leads, Blousey (Mia Lakha) and Tallulah (Jasmine Sakyiama) had poise and showed the contrasting side of their characters, Blousey quiet and resigned, Tallulah confident and sassy. Their vocals both soared to the rafters with a quality that many adults can only dream of.

The ensemble cannot be overlooked, they perform their multiple roles and dance routines with energy and polish. Leroy (Mohamed Bangura) appears in act 2 but is worth the wait with a glorious fight scene and displays of comic timing. Knuckles also gives a performance of note with a wide range of facial expressions and a great exit.

Bugsy Malone is a perfect family treat. It is a colourful, toe tapping delight that will leave a smile on your face.

Runs until Sunday 14th August 2022 with tickets available from https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/bugsy-malone/

Reviewer: Annette Nuttall

Reviewed: 29th July 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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