Mobsters with a hit on their hands
There is still a month to go before the official opening of this year’s big summer show, Harry
Potter and the Cursed Child. But that production is going to have to go some distance to improve on Sean Holmes’s stage version of Alan Parker’s 1976 film, first seen at this venue last year and now triumphantly back for a 12-week run. If Holmes’s gangsters were to meet JK Rowling’s wizards down a dark alley, on the basis of this, my money would be with those holding the custard pies.
There’s never been anything like Parker’s musical movie, with its cast of child actors playing adult gangsters in Prohibition-era Chicago and starring a 12-year-old Jodie Foster as the ice-cool gangster’s moll Tallulah. Holmes’s show can’t beat the original film for casting, but he has mined a dazzling seam of youthful talent for his three rotating casts none the less. On the evidence of the night I saw it, they bring just the right dash of knowing humour to Parker’s gallery of wisecracking mobsters, with their oversized suits, chewy Chicago accents and penchant for taking out enemies with sticky white goo.
Jon Bausor’s set eloquently invokes some delicious noirish tropes; sootstained brick walls; dark iron staircases, Fat Sam’s dim-lit speakeasy. There are plenty of shadows in Holmes’s production, too, which may abound in metatheatrical winks but doesn’t duck the underlying savagery in this tale of
gang warfare in which people are picked off like victims in a computer game shootout.
And oh, the score! My Name is Tallulah; Bad Guys; So You Wanna Be
a Boxer – all are joyfully, brilliantly delivered and augmented superbly by Drew McOnie’s punchy choreography. Bugsy Malone is a terrific balance of big set pieces and individual star turns, although it was some of the lesser roles that stood out: Alesandro Bonelli’s smooth-talking, comically diminutive Dandy Dan with a massive camel coat impeccably balanced on his tiny shoulders; Elliot Aubrey’s Fizzy, the humble janitor with stars in his eyes who delivered the evening’s showstopper with an effortlessly soul-soaring rendition of
Tomorrow. Both he and Tabitha Knowles’s Blousey (nice to see the good girl given some wild-cat claws) have voices that hint at a promising future.
Perhaps Holmes’s show is a bit rough about the edges. Perhaps not every performance is completely topnotch. But this has the mark of all great musicals: that alchemical ability of being able to take you out of your life and transport you, just for a couple of hours, to somewhere completely glorious.
Bugsy Malone: balancing big set pieces with terrific star turns