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Bugsy Malone

Bugsy Malone

Bugsy is back !

Image: Bethany Irvine as Tallulah

This is the third time CYGAMS have brought Bugsy to Chelmsford – tonight’s programme proudly lists all those who once “walked through that door” and have gone on to find work – and sometimes fame and fortune – in the industry.

It’s not hard to see why it’s a popular choice for groups of this kind – great fun, larger-than-life cartoon characters, and some memorable numbers – if you weren’t whistling them on the way in, they’ll certainly stay with you on the way home. And the first night audience were loudly enthusiastic, clapping along, cheering and laughing at the child-friendly fake fights.

Jeremy Tustin directs, as he did in 2009. [In 1989 he was Dandy Dan.] His production, using a big cast with a wide range of age and experience, has some impressive company numbers: the boxers in the gym, the army of down-and-outs. It’s the girls who steal the show from the gangsters. The Speakeasy troupe, who bring us the Fat Sam’s anthem, in flapper frocks, then elegant white gowns, with ostrich feathers to support Tallulah [Bethany Irvine] and her black boa. Anna Edmondson impresses as Blousey Brown, the Broadway Baby who longs for Hollywood. She’s vocally assured, especially in her big heartbreak number Ordinary Fool. Good presence from Fortune Ibrahim as Fizzy, who dreams of dancing as she sweeps the floor, and Edith Clements as Lena Marelli, temperamental star of her own show – “Gimme the chance and I’ll take the lead”.

Tommy Edwards is ex-boxer city slicker Bugsy, who saves the day for Oliver Blowers’ engagingly portrayed Fat Sam Staccetto. His rival in gangland is Hayden Wagland’s confident Dandy Dan, with a cocky swagger and a toothbrush moustache. Plenty of character opportunities in the NY underworld: amongst many others we see Gene Gardner as the adenoidal Knuckles, Elliott Greaves as Louis, Jacob Goldsmith as [inter alia] Leroy with excellent comic timing, Josh Wilkinson as impresario Oscar de Velt, and Ruby Burtenshaw as Looney Bergonzi and the phony ventriloquist.

The show works best in the big set pieces. The back-room, back-stage scenes sometimes struggle: they’re set upstage on the upper level, and there’s a reluctance to push the plot, and the punch-lines. Famously, the gang warfare is pure slapstick, with old-fashioned custard pies to the heart, and the new-tech splurge guns which win the day for Fat Sam. I’ve seen messier fights, but the machine gun rattle sound effects leave us in no doubt of their deadly efficiency.

Bryan Cass is in charge of the music, as he was for the two previous productions, his band capturing the style, if not the instrumentation, of Paul Williams’ pastiche score.

The show ends as it began, with “a stage full of stiffs”, before the glorious resurrection for the uplifting closing number – “You Give A Little Love”, one of those toe-tapping tunes you’ll be humming in the yellow cab home.

  • : admin
  • : 07/02/2023