Bugsy Malone, Shaftesbury Arts Centre youth drama group

IT’s easy to see why young performers love Bugsy Malone, the Prohibition era musical first seen as a 1976 movie by Alan Parker, with an all-child cast including Jodie Foster as the singer Tallulah.

It’s got catchy songs, great dance rhythms, an exciting story with speakeasies, warring bar-owners, gangsters armed with cream-shooting splurge guns and constant high energy action.

So when Sophie Lester, who has been in charge of Shaftesbury Arts Centre’s youth group for two years, planned a post-lockdown show, Bugsy Malone was the obvious – and popular – choice.

There was an amazing turnout of 75 young people for the auditions and the final cast, led by Max McCall as Bugsy, numbers 32, with a wide range of experience and ages.

The show, running at the arts centre to Saturday 9th and 1§4th to 16th October, is non-stop fun, with wise-cracking speakeasy owners, seriously dumb heavies, glamorous girls and a laconic leading man, who has just the right edge of bravado and naievety.

There is a genuinely touching chemistry between McCall’s Bugsy and Liv Walker’s would-be night club singer Blousy Brown.

Katy Merry plays Tallulah, the chanteuse and girl-friend of speakeasy owner Fat Sam (Ella Barrington),  and Harry Wopat plays his ruthless rival, Dandy Dan.

The excellent and mostly very young band was led by musical director Jonti Grant . The stylish and flexible art deco set was designed by Steve Pocock and built by the arts centre’s back-stage crew.

With such a big company, on stage and behind the scenes, it is invidious to single anyone out. This was a team effort, from the glittering Jazz Age dresses to the haunting solo violin, and the trilby-hatted gangsters making use of the whole auditorium in their gun-toting mayhem.




Bugsy Malone continues on Friday and Saturday 8th and 9th and Thursday 14th to Saturday 16th October.

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