WHEN you think how many youth companies have presented Alan Parker’s spoof of those 1930s Hollywood gangster films, since he adapted it for the stage nearly 40 years ago, it comes as a surprise that this production, starting at Bath Theatre Royal, is the first professional production to go on a nationwide tour.
And what an extensive tour it is. Between now and February 2023, it goes north to Glasgow south to Southampton Mayflower Theatre (23rd to 28th August), and west to Plymouth Theatre Royal (18th to 22nd October).
Twenty-one youngsters, aged between nine and 15, form three groups to alternate in the seven principal roles, but the rest of the 39- strong cast is made up of young adults.
As you would expect the youngsters throw themselves into their roles, with Gabriel Payne (Bugsy), Mia Lakha (Blousey), Albie Snelson (Fat Sam), Jasmine Sakyiama (Tallulah), Aidan Oti (Fizzy), Cherry Mitra (Lema/Babyface) and Desmond Cole (Dandy Dan), taking the honours on press night.
Never holding back on the power or emotion in any number, whether solo or leading the ensemble, and chasing hard for every laugh, their energy levels must have been running close to empty by the final curtain.
Yet, despite all that energy and effort, with splurge guns sending out only small paint pellets and muted custard pies, it never quite achieved the expected level of joyous, slapstick mayhem, with players plastered in gunge. Not that the young players would have noticed any shortage of fun, with an audience who seemed programmed to respond noisily to every bit of comedy and whoop and holler after each number.
With a talented adult ensemble on hand to back the youngsters, many of the numbers, stylishly choreographed by Drew McOnie and admirably supported by musical director Connagh Tonkinson and his sextet, deserved a big response.
Jon Bausor’s set and costumes perfectly captured the late 1920s period, and with director Sean Holmes adding a slick sophistication, not usually associated with this show, we may not have had the hilariously fun-filled evening anticipated, but there was still plenty to enjoy and admire in this highly polished musical, which continues at Bath until Saturday 23rd July.
Photographs by Johan Persson – Gabriel Payne as Bugsy and Jasmine Sakyiama as Tallulah; Mia Lakha as Blousey; the Bugsy Malone Ensemble.