Splat! Bugsy Malone Hits Hammersmith

By Londonist Last edited 34 months ago
Splat! Bugsy Malone Hits Hammersmith ★★★★★ 5

So you wanna be a boxer? performed by the cast of Bugsy Malone. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Londonist Rating: ★★★★★

It’s hard to believe the classic kids crime epic Bugsy Malone is now over 40 years old — watching this stage version at the brand spanking new Rueben's Wing of the Lyric Hammersmith it feels as fresh as ever.

Its Prohibition and New York is riddled with hoodlums, showgirls and down-and-outs, and gang warfare is spiralling out of control with the arrival of the deadly new ‘splurge’ gun. Local boss Fat Sam is in crisis and has no choice but to take a risk by turning to the chancer he hopes can solve all his problems: Bugsy.

At the centre of Sean Holmes' sparkling version of Alan Parker’s story is a cast of kids and teenagers in the roles of all the gangsters and dolls. Unlike the 1976 film however, the cast here take on the songs, originally sung by adults, and do so with confidence and chutzpah. You might think there’s a risk of it all becoming too cutesy and irritating, but the consistently witty choreography and clever staging manage to add a contemporary edge while the production remains sympathetic to the film.

Knockout performances are delivered by contenders Daniel Purves as Bugsy and Hammad Animashaun as tight-lipped heavy Leroy Smith. Thea Lamb is a superstar in the making as Blousy Brown (really not sounding “like a stale loaf of bread”), while Samatha Allison makes for a super-sassy Tallulah, and gets much more than the little love she asks the audience to give.

Add to the jokes and songs, a monsoon of pink angel delight being sprayed around the stage by splurge gun, plus a brilliantly realised speak-easy set and car chase and you have a show that's impossible to resist. Last night's standing ovation from both Alan Parker and original stars including Bonnie Langford suggests the alumni seal of approval was also granted.

The £20 million revamp of the Lyric’s Ruebens Wing by Rick Mather Architects is also worth spotlighting since it's produced a state-of-the-art creative space incorporating recording suites, dance studios, digital play-spaces and a beatboxing salon. Combining these facilities with grass-roots outreach projects that encourage local kids to come in and learn has paid huge dividends — which are all up there on stage to be seen and enjoyed in this delightful show.

By Emily Black

Bugsy Malone runs at the Lyric Hammersmith until 1 August (with a changing cast). Tickets cost £15-40. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

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Last Updated 29 April 2015