Set in 1920s Chicago, Bugsy Malone takes influences from the lives of mobsters like Al Capone and Bugs Moran, before mixing them together with a cast full of kids and the infamous splurge guns. As Scott Baio, the original film’s star put it, “you couldn’t ask for a better first big gig!”
Brilliant Theatre Arts have brought their production to the Harlow Playhouse for a four-show run, emphasising the “immersive/interactive” nature of the performance. As soon as I walked through the theatres doors, I was greeted by a stern look from two pintsize police officers and rushed away with my head bowed low to collect my ticket.
This form of welcoming committee worked well, however, later on in the performance, it become irritating and distracting as cast members appeared through doorways in the corner of my eyes before running down a flight of stairs and darting off down another exit without contributing anything to the performance, and having to stand up in order to allow actors to barge through the seating. As a director, I appreciate that David Jenkins, who directed the production, has a vision that he wanted to achieve, however it often distracted from the main action taking place on the stage.
The emphasis for this production was, as it should be, on the talented cast. Guy Trundle was Bugsy, playing the slick smooth-talker well, often appearing as one of the biggest on stage despite the fact he was physically one of the smallest! George Ellaway and Eddie Woodley had excellent on-stage chemistry as the crime fighting duo of Captain Smolsky and Officer O’Dreary, and employed this to very humorous effect. Jenkins and producer, Lee Ellaway, did well in ensuring that the cast were comfortable in expecting laughs and playing off of the audience.
Phoebe Mary Duffy was very good as Tallulah, seemingly intent on stealing Bugsy from Blousey, played by Elyvia Palmer who had an excellent voice. The stand out performance, however, belonged to Lucy Lawson as Fizzy. Her rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ was better than in the original film, and the accompanying dance with Gracie Leader was seamless.
Amanda Black’s choreography was clever and incorporated the entire cast, including the younger performers, combining well with Matt Evans’ musical direction particularly well in ‘Down and Out’.
The set, designed and built, by Chris Musgrave from Set Blue Scenery and Sandra Urwin was possible one of the most ambitious I have seen of a youth theatre production, working really well, especially in providing multiple exits at varied levels whilst Emily Brown’s lighting worked very well in depicting location.
Admittedly, I found it difficult to buy into Jenkins’ directorial vision and believe it actually hampered the performance; however, the more conventional elements of the show worked well. The entire cast of Bugsy Malone showed off their talents and their energy and commitment throughout was admirable.
Tickets for Bugsy Malone are on sale for their performance on the 3rd of May 2015 at the Harlow Playhouse on 01279 446754. More information on Brilliant Theatre Arts can be found here http://www.brillianttheatrearts.co.uk/