Mob­sters with a hit on their hands

The Daily Telegraph - - Arts - By Claire All­free

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

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