A summer treat not to be missed.
I liked the Lyric Hammersmith's Bugsy Malone a lot when it first re-opened the theatre, after an extensive redevelopment of front-of-house areas, last year; now that it has returned, I positively love it. The show itself has gained in confidence and sheer élan; the numbers burst with a new kind of vigour and rigour, yet the infectious sense of fun remains utterly undiminished.
As I wrote last year, this is, of course, the irresistible 1976 British film musical that reignited the dormant British film industry. Stage versions have become a staple of companies like the National Youth Music Theatre (who have previously presented it at this very theatre back in 1997 and at the West End's Queen's Theatre that starred a young Sheridan Smith), while an earlier West End version was previously done at the Her Majesty's back in pre-Phantom days in 1983.
But though it has a previous stage life, Sean Holmes's new production is the best I've ever seen: the seven principals may be played by rotating teams of super-confident youngsters, but they've been surrounded by young adult performers, many of them recent drama school graduates, that anchors and professionalises the show immensely. So it simultaneously has an eager innocence and bold knowingness: a very difficult balance to strike, but which this production does with unnerving and thrilling accuracy.
The show is famously a pastiche, pie-in-your-face (instead of bullets) recreation of gang warfare films, shot through (in every sense) with a strutting wit and poignancy thanks to the fact that child actors play the lead adult characters throughout.
At the performance reviewed, these included Adryan Dorset-Pitt in the title role, Alessandro Bonelli as Dandy Dan, and Rhianna Dorris and Tabitha Knowles as Tallulah and Blousey, all of them outrageous and courageous by turns. The show, with its showgirls and gangsters, feels a pint-sized Guys and Dolls — and choreographer Drew McOnie, who won this year's Olivier for his work on In the Heights -- sells it with all the sizzle and razzle-dazzle of that show.
It is just wonderful: a summer treat not to be missed.
What the Press Said...
"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."
Clare Allfree for The Telegraph
External links to full reviews from popular press