Bugsy Malone - CYGAMS, Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Set in 1920’s prohibition, where cream/foam replaces the ammunition, this musical comedy is a pure parody of gangster rivalries in New York. Made famous by the film of the same name featuring Scott Baio and Jodie Foster, it them went on to become a stage musical which premiered in the West End in 1983.
Young Gen have produced this musical twice before and it is clear why it is so popular with youth groups as it allows for a very large cast to be used with lots of smaller cameo roles.
The set was very clever with various levels allowing for different locations to be easily conveyed without excessive set pieces, the only downside were long blackouts between so many smaller scenes where all that was heard was the sound of footsteps coming on stage – some music to cover these would have been nice.
Leading this cast as the title character, Bugsy Malone was Tommy Edwards. Tommy was a joy to watch, he had great stage presence, a feel for comedy and a glint in his eye that I’m sure the audience lapped up. He was everything you wanted Bugsy to be with charm, swagger and good looks. Opposite him as Blousey Brown was Anna Edmondson. Anna looked just right and when she sang she was a knockout. A pure clear vocal that was an absolute pleasure and her acapella vocals were equally as impressive. A lovely pairing.
There were several understudies at the performance I witnessed on Friday night and my hat goes off to them all. I had forgotten this until the interval and I certainly would not have known from the seamless way they interacted with the rest of the cast. The most impressive of all these for me was Hugo Kalair. I was struck in Act one how similar Dandy Dan and Capt. Smolsky looked but put it down to brothers or similar looking young actors on stage as the portrayals were so strong and contrasting. When I clicked it was the same actor, I was even more impressed.
Tallulah is a big part to take on, as it is so well known from Jodie Foster and Catherine Zeta-Jones portrayals, and while I appreciate Harriet Blythe went on as an understudy, I never really felt the smokiness of the character. She sang and moved well and her dialogue was good but for me personally it didn’t quite gel. However as previously mentioned going on as an understudy is a challenging task and I would not have known from her stage craft that this was the case.
Oliver Blowers as Fat Sam had great stage presence also and really had the feel for Fat Sam, he commanded his goons very well, and two in particular really stood out for me - Gene Gardner and Freddie Estall, their facial expressions and body language were very good and they worked so hard in every scene they appeared in.
Fortune Ibrahim as Fizzy gave a very soulful rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ but as Fizzy is a ‘hoofer’ (as mentioned in the dialogue), I would have like to see more dance moves, her ease of movement and lovely arm lines, perhaps led to believe she could have done more.
The chorus work kept the very large company busy and the choreography was very good. However, much of the dialogue was lost with poor diction and some sections we simply couldn’t understand as it was spoken so fast with thick accents. This is something that we often come across and it is so important that the audience hear what is going on.
The Orchestra was excellent under the baton of Bryan Cass and gave good support and balance to the singers.
Equally The costumes were lovely and had just the right feel for the period, there were some lovely touches amongst them and the attention to detail with the correspondence shoes and other accessories were perfect. I wish however that little girls weren’t put in big wigs, I understand the need to represent the period, but it just makes them look like grannies rather than glamourous night club girls. To carry them off they need the make up to match - to make the characters complete, and of course I understand how difficult that is when they are so young. I would rather have seen them with their own hair slicked back in buns as Jodie did in the film or tied back to look like a bob, as it would have been more age appropriate without losing the period feel.
However, these are all minor points in what was a strong show from the society and one which the kids clearly loved, I suspect partially that may be something to do with the splurge guns and cream pies!
I always enjoy seeing young people enjoying the art and magic of performing and look forward to see what Young Gen bring next with ‘13’.