Tag Archives: Paul Williams

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

This review was originally written for and published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/bugsy-malone-theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: Happy Days – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

HappyDays-Kings-Theatre-Glasgow-Photo_Paul_Coltas-620x330

Previously published at The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/happy-days-a-new-musical-kings-theatre-glasgow/

Book: Garry Marshall

Music & Lyrics: Paul Williams

Director & Choreographer: Andrew Wright

Designer: Tom Rogers

TV’s favourite 1950′s family, the Cunninghams and the rest of the gang from the beloved show Happy Days: Pinky, Potsie, Ralph Malph, Joanie and Chachi join forces in a battle to save their beloved diner Arnold’s from demolition. It’s a race against time. Can the town rely on their favourite hero ‘The Fonz’ to save the day?

Happy Days: A New Musical is written by Garry Marshall, creator of the original 70’s and 80’s television series, and despite this pedigree the storyline of this new musical is slender at best and incoherent at worst: a picnic with a wrestling match?! in which the Fonz will challenge his old enemies the Malachi brothers. In a word association game, wrestling wouldn’t be the word that sprung to mind when saying picnic (though this reviewer feels it may from now on) there’s a tap dance routine with fruit pies, Luchador costumes and an appearance from James Dean and Elvis – following this? No, me either. That said it’s all done is such a positive and jolly fashion that if you sit back and let the madness wash over you then it’s all perfectly pleasant.

One of the fundamental issues with the show is that it is short on dialogue and heavy on song to carry the story along, unfortunately a lot of the lyrics are lost in mangled diction and poor projection and the songs by Paul Williams, though reminiscent of the 1950’s don’t have that fifties spark, any real immediacy or catchy hooks to get you involved. That said there are a few gems: “Oooooh Bop” delivered by Fonzi and the Dial-Tones, “Run” from the male cast members and “Legend in Leather” from Pinky. To its credit Tom Rogers’ unfolding set design is vibrant and evocative and the set changes slick and well-executed and as expected from Andrew Wright, the choreography original and inventive and faultlessly executed by the ensemble (though, rather reminiscent of Jersey Boys at times). The basketball themed “Run”, the act two opener, in particular, is a real delight.

The young ensemble, many in their first professional engagement are excellent and thoroughly deserving of praise. Enthusiastic, slick and effective, their commitment transmits warmly to the audience culminating in a mass bop along at the finale. Heidi Range equips herself well and delivers an engaging performance as Pinky, veterans Cheryl Baker and James Paterson as Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham are also excellent, Baker even manages a cheeky nod to her Bucks Fizz days with a rip your skirt off moment. Paterson too provides some welcome comic moments in his scenes as the Grand Poobah of the Leopard Lodge. Deserving of mention is Andrew Waldron as Ralph Malph, a young actor with fine comic timing and a bright future ahead.

The main issue with the whole endeavour is the critical casting of Fonzi: Ben Freeman is utterly lacking in charisma, thoroughly unconvincing, he appears emotionally removed from the role he’s meant to be playing. His accent manages to travel through all 50 of the United States through the evening and his nasal singing voice grates. Despite its faults Happy Days is a pleasant enough way to spend a miserable winter’s evening and one can’t help willing the whole thing to succeed: the ensemble invest so much commitment and energy to it that you want to love it, ultimately it’s the material that lets the whole thing down. Still it didn’t stop the Glasgow audience from dancing along and singing the famous theme tune at the top of their lungs at the end.

3 ***