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Quick Change Review: Bugsy Malone (Tour)


Playground feuds take an ugly turn in Bugsy Malone as children fight to reign over a fizzy pop industry.

Set during the prohibition, the satirical mob gangster story follows entrepreneurial Fat Sam (Charlie Burns) when his empire is threatened by rival, Dandy Dan (Rayhaan Kufour-Gray). He enlists the help of local charmer, Bugsy Malone (Amar Blackman) to seek revenge and protect his speakeasy.

The plot is whipped up - there are splurge guns that shoot cream, fatal custard pies, and love triangles straight from a soap opera. Yet, the tomfoolery and fun falls flat. Mama Ru would critique that they just needed to push it further. I desperately wanted to delight in the messiness of Bugsy Malone, the grit and the drama of dessert killings, but I’ve had more whipped cream on a sundae.

A large child cast lead the production, as is tradition, but this group are unfortunately swallowed by the large stage and their attempts at New York accents don't quite reach the audience. They do a fine job with the material, as Alan Parker's play is filled with Vaudevillian humour and farce. But, the iconic numbers feel shy and reminiscent of school talent shows.

However, Charlie Burns gives a confident performance as Fat Sam, and Taziva-Faye Katsande's Tallulah has the makings of an endearing character.

It is the actor on as Knuckles who delivers the standout performance. As part of Sam’s gangster gang, he is the lead ‘dumb nut’ but cracks as many laughs as he does knuckles.

“Bad Guys” is the number of the night. It’s slimy and sinister. The ensemble piece, the iconic, “So You Wanna Be A Boxer?” is accompanied by neat, Charleston-esque choreography by Drew McOnie that is performed well by the older cast members.

Photo by Johan Persson

The set, designed by Jon Bausor, is wonderful. Using an outdoor metal stairwell with a couple of doors on each level is effective, Sam’s liquor bar shines like hard boiled sweets, and a car chase sequence at the end of act one is seriously impressive. Likewise, Bausor's costumes are visually divine. Flapper dresses shine and suits are specially tailored for the high ego kids.

There are some nifty parts in the show, directed by Sean Holmes. A funny audition scene pads out act one, and Philip Gladwell does a stellar job of lighting the physical scenes directed by Kate Waters. The cast break the fourth walls and there are moments that are cheeky and tongue in cheek. “I’m the star of the show now!” exclaims Babyface sweetly, and Sam makes a fuss of having to do the set change himself.

This production could’ve been anything that it wanted to be. The material is there, and the audiences are drunk with nostalgia and desperate to love it. Unfortunately for me, this one went down down down down, down down down and out.


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