• Tue. May 21st, 2024

REVIEW: Bugsy Malone the Musical at Oxford Playhouse – ‘riotous good fun’


Sep 22, 2022

The perfect entertainment for all ages, the Theatre Royal Bath and Birmingham Rep touring production of Bugsy Malone the Musical at the Oxford Playhouse this week is the ideal family show.

Directed by Sean Holmes, it is a polished, high energy and joyful experience.

The comic 1920s gangster story from the beloved film by Alan Parker (I still cannot take it in that that movie was released 40-odd years ago) is given an original theatrical identity by Holmes and his talented team. There are some great staging effects, including a strobe lit comedy car chase scene that was most spectacular.

A great set, designed by Jon Bausor, cleverly and swiftly moves the story along through suitably grungy back allies, rakish speakeasy nightlife, boxing gyms and other urban locations.

Combined with the first-rate lighting design from Philip Gladwell it all creates a mise-en-scène that echoes the classic ‘Guys and Dolls’ gangster stories of Damon Runyon.

Oxford Mail: Bugsy Malone features a cast of children

The plot of Bugsy Malone is about rival gang leaders Fat Sam and Dandy Dan’s power struggle to be the top boss in town. But at its heart it’s the story of hapless ne’er do wells, show biz hopefuls, fast-footed boxers, and a sweet romance. It is also about people wanting to better themselves in a time of hardship and rough social order. But in ‘Bugsyworld’ the guns are all of the Splurge variety and the ever afters are mostly all happy.

The cast are precociously talented – aged from nine to 15 – they sing and dance with a professional expertise that belies their age. The only weakness, and I feel a bit churlish to note it, was in occasional enunciation lapses from a couple of the cast. But oh my word they made up for that with the excellent standard of singing and dancing.

The choreographer, Drew McOnie, has done a marvellous job. He has created dazzling number after number, and the whole cast do them full justice. These terrific full cast dance extravaganzas are interspersed with great solo ballads that are rendered with a lot of heart as well as musicality.

Oxford Mail: Bugsy Malone comes to the Oxford Playhouse

It was great to see individual members of the cast in their spotlight moments, which were not only beautifully sung but also conveyed characterisation with a sensitivity that was particularly striking when you considered their ages.

Everything about the show exudes talent and high quality. It is all very well done indeed and a rattling good night out.


Bugsy Malone runs at the Oxford Playhouse until Saturday. Tickets from oxfordplayhouse.com