Theatre Review: Bugsy Malone

Words: Dom Henry
Thursday 03 November 2022
reading time: min, words

Splurge gun toting mini mobster mayhem

As slick as Bugsy’s byrlcreemed hair this theatrical musical makeover of the spoof 1976 gangster film hits ya right in the kisser, splurge guns blazing.


The original film was cast entirely with child actors as feuding mobsters and glitzy show girls in a wittily bonkers send up of prohibition era New York. Later becoming a UK terrestrial TV rerun favourite through the 80s and 90s, popular amongst the nation’s nippers whose nostalgia for it now safely fills the seats for this joyful stage revival.

In some wonderfully lit NY back streets, swanky speakeasys and moody city scenes the youngster led show follows a power struggle between rival mob bosses Fat Sam and Dandy Dan to control the cities illicit bootleg soda pop action. Complete with pedal powered model T Fords and of course the cream blasting splurge sub machine guns which drive the mob arms race.


Caught in the middle of all this are a host of colourful characters trying to make it, Hollywood hopefuls, sultry showgirls, hapless mob goons, dejected down and outs and burly boxers. Not to mention Bugsy Malone, a certain well turned out Italian lad and wannabee boxing promoter who is falling in love with an aspiring young singer fresh of the train.

Like the original the principal roles are covered by 9-15 year olds, drawing on a rotating cast. Unlike the all child film the leads are supported by a sizable first rate ensemble of fresh faced young adults, who cover off all the skimpy flapper dancing and help serve up the big numbers with superb pace.


The scene is set for what seems almost like a stupendous game of dress up, the child led cast on stage taking the nostalgic let’s pretend dreams of 80s and 90s viewers to gleeful new heights. It’s clear the sentimental parent demographic in the house is also rather proud of the young cast, there are no second takes live on stage and if there is the occasional lines hiccup or delivery wobble you can see the heads nodding with encouragement, thunderous applause at the ready.

The highlights are undoubtedly the big set piece numbers, dazzling full cast numbers from choreographer Drew McOnie which make the most of the belting Paul Williams 1920s themed score, matching catchy ear worms like ‘Bad Guys’ and ‘Down and Out’ delivered with terrific energy from the hot stepping ensemble and talented jazz orchestra.

In between the all-hands razzmatazz there are some great solo ballads, served with big voice skills well beyond their years. Tallulah played by Faith Ifil, hit the thoughtful sultry cabaret mark with power in ‘My Name is Tallulah’ and her aspiring starlet counterpart Blousey Brown, played by Delilah Bennett Cardy, nailed a heartfelt ‘Ordinary Fool’. Superb voices.


The music is in fact much better than the film, which had adult singers weirdly dubbed over the young cast. In comparison we have some up and coming talent over a live orchestra. Winner.

It’s not perfect, as some hiccups are to be expected with such a young cast, but goodness they have energy. That with the close support from the lively ensemble and it’s quite the toe tapper. The glorious end of show mash up where the young principals bust some dance battle style solos is pure youthful energy. If you were a fan of the original film you won’t want to miss this.

Bugsy Malone plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal from Tuesday 1 to Saturday 5 November 2022.

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