BATS Presents 'Bugsy Malone'

Fri 12th – Thu 18th February 2016

reviews

Jessie Davidson

at 10:40 on 13th Feb 2016

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A merry journey towards a musical climax, Bugsy Malone promises to generate many laughs but is by no means a perfect production. Although it has its moments of fresh comedy, the play had at points an amateur air, and acting prowess was let down by poor staging decisions.

Mirroring Alan Parker’s classic film of 1976, Bugsy Malone has a hard task. Rather than taking the production in an original direction, the production team choose largely to mimic the film, down to its comic one liners. Although upheld at points by good acting, at others the play necessarily falls short of its filmic predecessor.

It is therefore in the moments of originality that true comedy is produced. Group scenes in particular are well executed, such as the well-known “Bad Guys” song, rendered comic by the overdramatic gawkiness of the characters as they trippingly dance around the stage. The song “So You Wanna Be a Boxer” is also executed brilliantly, with good choreography and a charismatic solo by Connor Murphy. Humour is displayed at points by the metatheatricality – the characters’ awareness of themselves within a play – such as Babyface’s (Jonah Surkes’) excellent line that he is the star of the show.

The acting is generally of a good standard, with some excellent performances. Leo Benedict has the role of the dashing, flirtatious Bugsy perfectly pinned down, complete with the comic eyebrow raise. His execution of the song “Down and Out” outdoes that of the film itself. Sophia Luu plays a convincingly seductive Tallulah, while Anastasia Raymond executes the role of a female Fizzy well. Meanwhile, in an excellent modernising twist, Megan Jones, as Lena Morelli, sings a mock-appalling rendition of Kesha’s Tik Tok.

Despite this, there were times when the staging and lighting could have been drastically improved. Sometimes innovations were successful, such as the decision to sit the judges of Blousey’s audition in the audience seats, making us feel part of the drama. Yet other attempts would best have been avoided. Shining bright light into the audience’s eyes while the characters conversed at the back of the auditorium was a poor decision. There were also several sound related problems. In Tallulah’s key song, her relatively quiet voice was drowned out by the harmonies of her backing singers.

Overall a solid performance, Bugsy Malone offers an evening of laughs and gentle enjoyment, but little particular innovation. Good acting is coupled with humorous one liners. Yet this isn’t enough to prevent the play seeming like a weaker shadow of its filmic predecessor. In its failed attempt to imitate and poor choreography, this production sometimes has the amateur air of a school play. It would do well to improve its staging, lighting and choreography decisions, and to branch out more into originality.

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