REVIEW – Brilliant Bugsy Malone at Birmingham REP takes you back to those classic childhood storylines

MY CHILDHOOD goes back to the days when we still were allowed cap guns and spent countless hours playing cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers when it was not frowned upon by the PC brigade.

It seems from the programme notes that Alan Parker devised his famous film ‘Bugsy Malone’ as a show his children could watch without being frightened or corrupted.

Instead of being a blood bath as bespoke suited-and-booted adult gangsters slaughter rivals with the rat-a-tat of bullets, Parker devised a scenario where kids play the gangsters and smother (rather than slaughter) each other with custard pie bombs and cream shooting tommy guns. When they get shot, they get up and wave goodbye ready to come back on and play again – ’til it’s last man standing.

Paul Williams makes a splendid job of providing a stage script and music to Parkers’ cinematic masterpiece and the REP along with Royal Bath and Kenny Wax have combined to produce something joyous in this latest set-to-tour production.

Gangland rivalry between Big Bosses Fat Sam and Dandy Dan in the prohibition 1920s speakeasy days, is the simple secret of the plot and gives a marvellous excuse for glittering dresses, feather boas and swanky dinner suits.

The music is steamy jazz, the vocals hitting the spot with a merry catalogue and the fact that it’s performed by a talented bunch of tots, teens and a few ensemble adults, makes it all the more magical.

There is a nice boxing back story and some boy meets girl schmultz  to break up the custard pie carnage.

On press night Bugsy was given lots of ‘cool-dudeness’ by Gabriel Payne and night club singer Blousey, by a joyous ingénue Mia Lakha.

On the creative front, director Sean Holmes has made it all pretty seamless, Jon Bausor produced a monochrome beauty of a set which provides the perfect backdrop for his ‘frock’ designs and Phil Bateman heads up the music.

Top marks go the creative talents of choreographer Drew McOnie and fight director Kate Waters.

With the wonderful bull from the Commonwealth Games billowing smoke approvingly outside the theatre doors and the city centre heaving with visitors, this production was given the perfect send off.

The REP’s Bugsy is a foot-tapping, rip-roaring, heartstring twanging, magical milk shake of a family musical.

Bugsy Malone runs at The REP until August 14.  Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

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