Critics have been waiting with bated breath for the theatrical revival of Bugsy Malone, and the Lyric’s production delivers wonderfully, bringing a rollicking taste of New York City to Hammersmith.
Bugsy Malone is, in itself, a comic proposition, and so it is no surprise that slapstick and over-the-top reactions are the order of the day. Leeroy (Hammed Animashaun) provides some truly hilarious facial expressions, raising the physical comedy to a whole new level in the second act. Much of the amusement comes from the placing of child actors in adult roles, with the adult ‘hoodlums’ dim-witted, deferential counterpoints to their diminutive co-stars. The calculating Dandy Dan (Oliver Emery) is contrasted perfectly with his gleefully child-like minions, and their interactions are great fun to watch. Despite not being the titular character, Fat Sam (Jenson Steele) is arguably the star of the show, his frequent fourth-wall breaking providing a refreshing ironical nod to the often cartoonish nature of the show. Bugsy himself (Sasha Gray) demonstrated a great grasp of adult body language, amping up the charisma in the final song as he and Fizzy (Marley Lockhart) got the audience going.
All this does not mean the adults don’t get to shine, however. Bad Guys is the standout number of the first half, the ensemble’s voices working together seamlessly, the club dancing of the period mixed in with more gymnastic elements to create a truly dynamic showpiece.
Given its child-orientated nature, comparisons with Matilda the Musical are, perhaps, inevitable. Bugsy Malone may lack some of Matilda’s emotional depth, but that does not mean it’s without its more touching moments – Zoe Brough’s rendition of Ordinary Fool is a highlight of the performance, her voice capturing the audience’s attention entirely.
This is a production with an extremely strong ensemble cast – right down to the tiny Baby face (Emily Beacock). A special mention, however, has to go to designer Jon Bausor. The scene transitions throughout were all-but flawless, and the car chase montage retained all of its original brilliance.
The uncontested peak of the show is the final number, You Give A Little Love, which had the audience out of their seats, clapping and jiggling along. The cast were clearly having as much fun as the crowd, and the delighted grins of Steele and Lockhart as they waltzed off the stage together made it clear that they were just as reluctant to leave as we were to see them go.