REVIEW: Bugsy Malone – Theatre Royal, Glasgow


Earlier this year Glasgow Theatre’s Creative Learning Team held open auditions for young performers aged 9-18 years old to appear in its summer production. The young talent were guided through the production process by a team of theatre professionals, and arrive this week on the hallowed boards of the Theatre Royal, fully formed, splurge guns at the ready to present Alan Parker’s beloved musical Bugsy Malone.

Creator Alan Parker has actively discouraged professional productions of his much-loved musical, rendering it a seldom-seen gem. That is until this year where this production graces the stage in Glasgow hot on the heels of the Lyric Hammersmith’s production: chosen to be the show that re-opened its multi-million pound redevelopment. And what a show it is: it’s prohibition era Chicago and our eponymous hero, boxing promoter Bugsy’s best buddy Fat Sam is in trouble: his raucous speakeasy is in the middle of a gang war where bitter rivals are vying for control of the seedy underworld. Thrown into the mix are dapper gang boss Dandy Dan and sassy showgirl Tallulah who only has eyes for Bugsy, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend Blousy Brown.

The success of the show is largely down to its ebullient spirit and avoidance of tweeness, yes, these are kids, but it’s alarming how quickly you forget. Mischief oozes from every pore and it cleverly utilises, with its tongue firmly in its cheek, every cliche from every gangster movie and film noir you’ve ever seen. Highlights in the staging have to be the auditions for Fat Sam’s Nightclub – the tiny magician resplendent in cape and top hat and the ventriloquist duo particularly steal the show. Indeed it is the tiniest members of the cast who impress the most.

That said, the youthful exuberance of the cast throughout is a delight but there are a few who stand head and shoulders above the others: Anna Cowen (Blousey Brown) is a young performer with a bright future, self-assured and in fine voice, she truly sparkles brighter than her cast mates; Marcus Hyka as janitor Fizzy delivers the melancholy ‘Tomorrow’ beautifully and Alastair McLeod (a not-so-Fat Sam) is a solid performer throughout. Euan Strachan’s Bugsy is competent if a little too low-key for the role and Luke Gallagher’s Dandy Dan is expending so much energy trying to be ‘too cool for school’ that he forgets to imbue his performance with any real energy and project out to his audience.

This is a worthwhile venture for young performers and a fabulous chance to work with theatre professionals on the most prestigious stage in Glasgow. Here’s hoping there’s more of this to come.

Reviewed on Friday 31st July 2015

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