Bugsy Malone

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Put on your trilby, shake your tail feather, and grab your splurge gun because one of the most beloved musicals, Bugsy Malone is in town this week providing the perfect night out for all the family.

The Lyric Hammersmith Theatre Group first performed this version of the late film maker, Sir Alan Parker’s timeless classic back in 2015 and it is now on a nationwide tour.

The cinematic version premiered in 1976 and garnered huge critical and commercial success. This mainly due to its original premise: that of children playing gangsters and showgirls, bringing together classic tropes of film noir and musicals.

Directed by Sean Holmes, this is the tale of a mob turf war between speakeasy owner, Fat Sam and crime kingpin, Dandy Dan. Caught in the middle of it all is wise-guy and boxing promoter, Bugsy Malone, and promising singing starlet, Blousy. As the bodies pile up can Bugsy and Blousy escape the criminal underworld and start a fresh life in Hollywood?

This is such a fun production packed with great performances, catchy musical numbers and well executed set-pieces that will have you smiling throughout. Highlights come thick and fast, with the high energy ‘Fat Sam’s Grand Slam’ perfectly setting the tone of the show. In addition, there is the superbly choreographed ‘We Could Have Been Anything’ and ‘So You Wanna be a Boxer’ which shine a spotlight on choreographer’s Drew McOnie’s outstanding work. All pack a punch and fill the production with such vibrance that you can’t help getting sucked in and taken along for the ride.

As you may expect, this is a showcase for some fine young actors, some of whom are making their professional stage debuts with this production. Mixing these super talented kids with adult performers is a treat to watch. It never seems jarring or takes you out of the action, which can happen when you have children playing adults and vice-versa. This is a super talented ensemble cast that works so hard throughout, providing big laughs and lots of fun.

The costumes and set design by Jon Bausor look great. The costumes fully encapsulate 1920’s America, lots of glitz and glamour for the ladies, and pin stripes suites for the gents. The clever set design, along with Philip Gladwell’s lighting design gives the production a darker element to it, fully evoking criminality, mob assassinations and scenes from old gangster films we are all too familiar with.

The finale may actually be one of my favourite show endings of all the productions I’ve had the good fortune to cover and perfectly captures the immense joy you get from the show.  A huge dance number for all the cast, with absolute joy etched on all their faces, so infectious that the audience were up on their feet and joining in. Bugsy Malone is a big pie in the face full of fun and fabulous performances, and one that will entertain young and old alike.

Bugsy Malone is at the Manchester Opera House till the 12th November. Tickets available here.

Hairspray

Hairspray-2017-3

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ever popular audience favourite Hairspray burst into Manchester last night for a fun, feisty and feel-good two week stop at the city’s Opera House theatre.

Multi-coloured and multi-layered this is an uplifting and vibrant production with a serious and important message at its heart. Based on the 1988 John Waters film, Hairspray follows Baltimore teenager, Tracy Turnblad’s dream to dance on The Corny Collins Show. Tracy isn’t as conventionally looking as the show’s usual crew and faces an uphill battle from the start. What begins as a burning ambition to win a role on her favourite teen show soon becomes a campaign for social change which sees Tracy crusade to promote racial integration as she battles not only bigots but body shamers too.

Hairspray-2017

Newcomer Rebecca Mendoza makes her professional debut and as the bright, bold and beautiful Tracy Turnblad with a big voice and personality to match her buoyant bouffant she perfectly embodies the impassioned teen. Her comedic acting really raises her performance from excellent to exceptional and she puff and pants to perfection every time teen idol Link Larkin (Edward Chitticks) comes near.

Annalise Liard-Bailey smashes her professional debut as Penny Pingleton, the stunning pairing of Liard-Bailey and Layton Williams being a real highlight of the show, Williams shines as Seaweed, ensuring all eyes are upon him as he twists and flips across the stage, both are an absolute joy to watch.

Brenda Edwards returns as the mighty Motormouth Maybelle and raises the roof with her soulful and emotional rendition of I know where I’ve been. While theatre has a job to entertain it also has important role in educating audiences, which Edwards and cast do so with gusto.

Matt Rixton (Edna) and Graham MacDuff (tonight covering the role of Wilbur) solidify their status as audience favourites with each outrageous and hilarious scene, they’re clearly having just as much fun on stage as the audience off stage as they delight and deliver in style.

While it promotes a message of equality and inclusion Hairspray does it with such wit and charm it is anything but preachy. Drew McOnie’s punchy choreography ensures the pace always remains high while Takis’ sets and costumes are bright, blingy and whisk us straight back to the sixties.

With a vibrant and memorable score including numbers such as You Can’t Stop the Beat, Welcome to the Sixities and Good Morning Baltimore Hairspray never fails to entertain as the audience leapt to their feet in approval. Empowering, uplifting and most of all enormously entertaining!

On at the Opera House until Saturday 7th April tickets available here.