Theatre Review: BUGSY MALONE – Opera House, Manchester

Amar Blackman & ensemble in BUGSY MALONE. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

From its spectacular set designs and talented cast ensemble, BUGSY MALONE is an utterly splurgtastic show for all the family.

5 out of 5 stars

Alan Parker’s world-famous 1976 movie BUGSY MALONE, which launched the careers of Jodie Foster and Scott Baio, heads to the stage for the first time on tour with this universally acclaimed revival of the universally acclaimed Lyric Hammersmith Theatre production.

Set in Prohibition-era New York, where illicit Speakeasy bars were the perfect front for anyone who might have a sideline in racketeering, BUGSY MALONE follows rivals Fat Sam and Dandy Dan, who are in a turf war to show each other, and everyone else who runs this town, which of their bars will reign supreme. Each has its loyal gang of naïve flunkies, customers, showgirls, and workers, and you’d better remain faithful to your side lest you face a splurgtastic end with a cream pie chaser!

Charlie Burns & ensemble in BUGSY MALONE. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

John Bauser’s set designs are truly spectacular and fused into the very heart of this show. They are so realistic that it feels as though you are actually in downtown New York. Fat Sam’s speakeasy is a vibrant, pulsing hot den made even more realistic by its dingy surroundings, fire escapes and alleys reminiscent of Skid Row. In contrast, inside the club, a rainbow glow bar takes centre stage, with colours, sequins, utter flamboyance, and abandonment of all the rules as a riotous cast of characters emerge. Props appear from all directions, with club tables descending from the sky, sensational costumes that shimmer and kids dressed in classic pin-striped gangster suits of this era provide a comedic slant.

Bugsy Malone is famous for its cast of young actors playing adults. This production sees a mixture of young cast members integrated with adults. This helps keep the play routed in its original concept but also allows for more adult moments, such as sexy show-girls dancing, which is creatively handled. Choreographer Drew McOnie has pulled out all the stops with his challenging routines.

As Bugsy Malone, Gabriel Payne is cheeky and funny and leads a fantastic dance routine in DOWN AND OUTS. His singing, dancing and loveable portrayal is testament to his talents. Delilah Bennett-Cardy, as Blousey, is technically brilliant with her rendition of I’M FEELING FINE, while Fayth Ifil is blessed with first-class vocals, opening the show full of sass and elegance as Tallulah.

Luchia Moss, Alicia Belgarde, Taziva-Faye Katsande, Alisha Capon & Georgia Pemberton in BUGSY MALONE. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography 

Desmond Cole is Dandy Dan, and his arrogant swagger and laid-back approach to the character is great. Mohamed Bangura is also fantastic, funny, and convincing as the mild-mannered Leeroy Smith.

But it is Albie Snelson who completely steals the whole show with his roaring performance of Fat Sam. It’s hard to believe that this is his stage debut, as he looks like he’s been treading these boards since he learned to walk. His comedic performance and ability to ad-lib hilariously has the audience enthralled and in the palm of his hand. This kid is an absolute star!

Add in Paul Williams’s infamous songs, such as SO YOU WANNA BE A BOXER and BAD GUYS, which are brought to life by this stellar cast, and BUGSY MALONE is a show that will have you clapping along and joining in with the fun. Utterly Splurgtastic!

BUGSY MALONE runs at the Opera House, Manchester, until 12 November 2022