Review: Bugsy Malone. Curve. (touring)

This ‘acclaimed and award-winning’ touring production of the musical Bugsy Malone produced by Theatre Royal Bath and Kenny Wax in association with Birmingham Rep Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre should have all-out-winner running through its all-dancing all-singing veins. And for the most part it does with its mixed age talented cast of adults and younger 9-15 year-old performers. Bugsy runs at Curve until 9th October.

Bugsy Malone is always gonna be a theatre draw for families and on a virtually full press night at Curve the audience response to the show’s memorable and well-loved songs created by Paul Williams and stage play version by Alan Parker is effusive. Sean Holmes directs and the excellent choreography is courtesy of Drew McOnie. The impressive 1920’s New York prohibition era backstage styled set (Jon Bausor set and costumes) with tall yawning, accompanying metal staircases, plus other magically flown in bar tables and punch bags etc frames the whole piece. We even get a funny Keystone Kops styled car chase thrown in for free. Bausor’s costume designs are straight outta the Jazz Age and add plenty of sexy and dark drama to the fun gangster parody. Ben Harrison’s sound is spot on and Philip Gladwell’s lighting design does an excellent job of creating the various moods.

In the younger cast roles the Knuckles team are playing at Curve this week. They are Bugsy (Amar Blackman) Blousey (Avive Williams) Fat Sam (Charlie Burns) Tallulah (Taziva-Faye Katsande) Fizzy (Ellis Sutherland) Lena/Babyface (Ava Hope Smith) and Dandy Dan (Rayhaan Kuuor-Gray).

Credit – Johan Persson/

With no disrespect to the younger cast’s obvious youthful talents the producer’s idea of mixing up the 9-15 year-old age ranges with the much more experienced, characterful and nuanced adults to play adult equals (i.e not meant to represent children or teenage characters) on stage, creates too much of a disconnect that confuses the story-telling even in a show that has a gossamer thin plot. On leaving the auditorium I hear a young audience member say “That was good fun. I liked the singing and dancing – but I have no idea what it was about.” I have to concur with his young and wise opinion, and I know the story.

Credit – Johan Persson/

Before I get mown down with splurge gun gunge for being critical, I would like to redress the balance by adding that the things that do work in this version of Bugsy Malone are in the majority especially in the much-improved second half where we enjoy set numbers very well executed by the whole ensemble and less of a disconnected story build. Without spoilers, the things that pop brightly on stage are the big song and dance numbers and the brilliantly choreographed boxing match, the comedy of the car chase and the emotional and punchy songs by all of the principles. Is it worth seeing?

Yes, it is. Bugsy Malone is an energetic stage show and is sure to have an appeal to individuals and families but maybe not for small children. Although they would probably like the silly knuckle cracking Knuckles, the inept gangster.

I suggest it is suitable for ages 10 plus. Bugsy Malone contains strobe lighting and haze.

Captioned and BSL interpreted performances are available.

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