"Bugsy Malone", currently playing at Nottingham Theatre Royal as part of a UK tour, is a joy from start to finish, feeling like not just a spoof but a celebration of the classic gangster films. The musical's cast are mainly children, with some adults taking roles in the ensemble. As such, the production has three rotating casts - the review here is based on the cast that performed on 4th November.
The play is set amidst the gang rivalry of Fat Sam (Isham Sankoh) and Dandy Dan (Kit Cranston), with fights regularly breaking out between members of each side. The gangsters use splurge guns (guns that fire doughnut cream rather than bullets) and suck lollipops rather than smoke cigarettes. The motivation for this gang rivalry is never made clear, but Dandy Dan's attacks are slowly encroaching on Sam's "turf" - the speakeasy known as Fat Sam's Grand Slam.
The main plot of the play revolves around Blousey Brown (Delilah Bennett-Cardy whose excellent singing voice surely marks her for future stardom), who is hoping to become a singer at the speakeasy, alongside Tallulah (Fayth Ifil). She is assisted by Bugsy Malone (Gabriel Payne), but Bugsy's dodgy dealings often creates problems for their relationship.
The production is filled with many feel-good songs, including "Bad Guys", a very funny piece performed by Fat Sam's gang, and also some slower, more meaningful songs such as "Tomorrow", performed by cleaner and wannabe performer Fizzy (Elliot Arthur Mugume). The talent of the children in this production cannot be put into words. I was a little apprehensive beforehand, unsure whether this "school show with a budget" would live up to expectations, but it was superb.
Everything about it worked, from the rapidly changing set that kept the show moving from scene to scene, to the cheeky asides to the audience from the cast - one incredibly funny moment involved Fat Sam having to conduct a set change on his own after he found all of his gang had been splurged by Dandy Dan. The show ended with a modern remix of a lot of the songs, and the cast all performing breakdance routines.
The cast were all clearly having fun, and so were we! Maybe this is just nostalgia talking (I remember playing Dandy Dan in a school production), but I cannot reiterate this enough - an absolute joy.
The tour of Bugsy Malone continues until February 2023. More info here: https://bugsymalonethemusical.com/
Tom Morley, November 2022