London was a shell-shocked and sleep-deprived city on Friday evening, thanks to one of the biggest political shocks of all time. How welcome then that Bugsy Malone has just bounced into the Hammersmith Lyric, fresh from its critically acclaimed run last year and its multiple Olivier Award nominations.
Bugsy Malone is the tale of two half-witted street gangs, led by mob bosses Fat Sam and Dandy Dan, who are fighting over the dreaded “splurge gun”.
Meanwhile, nice guy Bugsy Malone falls for Blousey Brown, a singer at Fat Sam’s speakeasy. These plans are disrupted by the seductive songstress Tallulah, who wants Bugsy for herself.
I was never the greatest fan of the show or the film (despite some brilliant songs) – some of the jokes are fairly cornball and the gangsta schtik can wear quite thin. However, production is so joyous and entertaining that it made me see it in a very different light.
Sean Holmes’ direction is smart and shows impeccable attention to detail, drawing out every gag from the script and adding a few new ones as well to iron out some of the ropier sections. The introduction of a high power megamix at the end was also inspired and sent everyone out on a high.
The real spark behind this production is Drew McOnie’s blistering choreography. Even though the cast is probably the youngest around, this is the best devised and performed choreography I have seen all year (the only other contender, In the Heights, is another McOnie production).
Nearly all the songs are given superb extended dance sequences; such as graceful balletic dancing for Tomorrow and an exhausting physical display of modern dance during So You Wanna Be a Boxer. McOnie is one of the best around and his talent is brought to the fore by a highly talented ensemble.
It is difficult to pick out individuals but Elliot Aubrey’s soulful sweeper Fizzy, Max Gill’s hapless Fat Sam and Alesandro Bonelli’s pint sized Dandy Dan all hit the mark. Blousey and Tallulah are both strong female characters and Tabitha Knowles and Rhianna Dorris respectively both possess sumptuous voices to bring them to life.
Credit also must go to Jon Bausor’s slick set design and the colorful and vibrant costumes (uncredited) for creating an authentic slice of Prohibition America in the heart of Hammersmith.
This production of Bugsy Malone has been winning hearts wherever it goes, full of infectious enthusiasm and enjoyment. In what may be uncertain times it will please adults and kids alike – go and see it before it’s too late