‘Bugsy Malone’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by July 13, 2015

‘Bugsy Malone’ the book was written by Alan Parker, and adapted as a stage musical by musician and lyricist Paul Williams. Parker retained his fame for decades as a film director with such diverse productions as ‘Midnight Express’ and ‘Evita’. The 1976 UK film of ‘Bugsy Malone’ starred 13-year-old Jodie Foster, and cost $1 million (Aussie) but took a bit more at the box office.

This fast moving show brings joy to all ages, and is being presented by Phoenix Theatre Inc, in the Hamilton Hill Memorial Hall, 435 Carrington Street, Hamilton Hill.

Every day this week, this bright, two-hour show has a performance. The Sunday twilight matinee is at 5.00 pm and the rest are as follows:-

Monday a Matinee at 1.00 pm

Tuesday Twilight Performance 5.00 pm

Wednesday Evening 7.00 pm

Thursday Matinee 1.00 pm

Friday two shows, a matinee at 1.00 pm and in the evening 7.00 pm

Saturday 18th July – Closing Night 5.00 pm

 

The story is set in Chicago during the 1920s. For a decade, the production of liquor was banned – Prohibition – and so the gangsters took over, namely Al Capone and Bugs Moran. In this fun musical production, there is only extremely mild violence, and with cast of ages ranging from seven to seventeen, it means that an audience of children as young as even five, will love the singing and dancing.

In this production, the children do their own singing, unlike the film when adults dubbed the kids’ voices.

The scenery had some clever touches to it, such as the library and the getaway car (Scott Anderson, Richard Taylor, Leanne Winn, Emily Winn). There are a couple of very good scenery flats on wheels, but the youngsters need a little more practise handling them, however, as the show was light hearted, some people actually thought it was part of the entertainment. Tricky stage management for SM Jeni Stevens, with entrances coming from several directions around the auditorium.

 

     Within seconds of the opening overture, by the melodic swinging band (Musical direction was by Krispin Maesalu and his associate Josh Haines) featuring wind musicians, Catherine Motteram, Trish Telcik, Emma Mondy and Vanitha Hart, a poor mobster Ritzy (Chelsea Ameduri) had been ‘splurged’. Killed by the gangsters controlled by Fat Sam (Ashley Garner – excellent). When Bugsy Malone (Connor Gosatti – a natural) hears that his man has been killed, he goes to Fat Sam’s speakeasy – nightclub – to settle the score. He pushes his way past the stunningly talented, Charleston-style tap dancers, Billie (Jessica Huntley), Bangles (Ella Griffiths), Tillie (Erin Barrett), Velma (Shoshanna Olson) and Judy (Emmalee Bialas).

       As Bugsy reaches the bar, Tallulah (Abigail Banister-Jones) – Fat’s girlfriend – starts to flirt with him. Meanwhile, the members of Fats’ gang, Snake Eyes (Rebecca Winn), Knuckles (Edan Frazer), Shake Down (Gabriel Newman) and Captain Smolsky (Daniel Muller) disappear out the back quickly.

      Fat Sam has another enemy, Dandy Dan (Julian Monck) a conman who wants to cheat poverty stricken Bugsy out of his boxing gym. Therefore, Dan sets his men – Bronx (Matthew Styles), Yonkers (Libby Taverner) and Doodle (Luke Newman) to wipe out Fats’ gang along with Bugsy.

    One day Fats has a talent audition to get new entertainment for his club. As he is served with a tray of food by the waiter (Olivia Goud), Fats and his assistant (Amy Roche) judges the acts. The poor shoe-cleaning boy, Fizzy (Adeson Oyasope – well done) wants to apply but is not given the chance. Even skilled dancers, such as Dotty (Phillipa Bialas), Louella (Mikaela Innes) and Loretta (Mmoloki ‘Milo’ Hartill) do not get through the door, even the Great Marbini (Casidhe Gerrish) did not get to do one trick. A wonderful song and dance routine by a young girl (Tiffany Narrier) got nowhere.

      As Bugsy is buying a paper from the paperboy (Mia Frazer), he bumps into singer Blousey Brown (Sarah-Rose Kelly – fabulous voice) who is leaving the club; she too has been rejected. They flirt, and decide to run away together to Hollywood, but neither has any money. Bugsy goes to Fat’s bar and asks the staff, barman Joe (Liam Telcik) and the waitresses (Ruby Thoms, Lili-Mai Thoms, Saoirse Gerrish) if Blousey can have another proper audition.

    Which gangsters will survive the inter-gang battle?

 

Stunning programme (Mike Allan, Joanna Harrison, Devetta Ridgwell) in the sepia style of the 20s period, however the print was a little faint and so difficult for elderly reviewers to read – I have been told. The only other problem, and it happens all the time for many companies, the headsets did not seem to work for the first Act and a half, although towards the end of the show, life started to appear. I have full faith in sound operator Simone Ostle to correct these devilish devices.

Director, Jodie Innes, has ignored the old warning ‘never work with children’ and excelled. Every single child was totally focused, everyone knew their dialogue, and even the younger members seemed to understand the subtleties of the story. At no stage was there a cast member looking lost – many congratulations.

The magical, complex choreography was the brainchild of Mikaela Innes. The dancers – I guessed wrongly – were part of a troupe that worked regularly together. Most had not worked together before. They hoofed and tapped their way through the difficult routines of the era. The costumes (Jodie Innes, Elaine Innes, and of course the parents), makeup and hair (Thérèse Cruise) had all of the frills and quality of the 20s. A huge amount of work, but made the show classy and sassy.

I went expecting a simple children’s production and came away mouth gaping at their first class effort. Take the kids along, if you do not have any, borrow some.