REVIEW: Bugsy Malone

Kenny Smith reviews classic musical Bugsy Malone at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow.

THE wonderful thing about musicals is that they can be about pretty much anything – the lives of cats on the street, a battle between two men in revolutionary France, or a battle between gangsters in prohibition New York.

The latter was the basis for Alan Parker’s 1976 movie, Bugsy Malone, which he created as something to entertain his own children, mashing up the feel of 1920s gangster films with musicals – and in a twist, the cast was made up of children, rather than adults, removing the blood and guts of machine guns, and replacing them with custard pies from “splurge” guns.

Bugsy Malone also launched the careers of Jodie Foster and Scott Baio, and gave early roles to British talent including Bonnie Langford and Dexter Fletcher.

And now, as with many musicals, it’s been adapted to become a theatrical experience with instantly recognisable songs including My Name is Tallulah, You Give A Little Love, Down and Out, and Fat Sam’s Grand Slam.

So, for the uninitiated, what’s it all about? During the prohibition era, mobster Roxy Robinson is “splurged” by members of a rival gang, using rapid-fire pop guns – the “splurge guns”. Taking centre stage, and talking directly to the audience, is mob boss Fat Sam Staccetto (Albie Snelson), who introduces Bugsy Malone (Gabriel Payne), a penniless boxing promoter.

Sam’s rival, Dandy Dan, is splurging off Sam’s own men in a bid to take control of his empire and move in on his territory. Bugsy meets a newly-arrived singer and performer, Blousey Brown, and is instantly smitten with her.

There’s some nice staging touches along the way, with the car driven by Bugsy being particularly amusing, while Albie Snelson did a good job as Fat Sam, and formed an entertaining double act with the actor playing Knuckles.

The choreography was sharp, with So You Wanna Be A Boxer? being particularly well staged. Mohamed Bagura brought some charm and fun to the part of Leroy, the wannabe boxer.

Bugsy Malone was never a favourite of mine as a film, but the reaction from those around me was very much of a positive nature.

Bugsy Malone is at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow until 11 September.

Plus, read more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s culture pages.