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Review of Bugsy Malone at The Curve Theatre, Leicester

A road trip in the company of a local theatre person of repute allowed me to pay my first visit at last to that highly successful theatre The Curve. My viewing pleasure was also a first, and a particularly anticipated one on my list of those I wished to see live.

Alan Parker's magical child friendly gangster musical (words and music by Paul Williams) is a bundle of joy and custard and rife for a community production, such as this directed by Nick Winston (who also handles choreography).

While I would never say that I didn't enjoy this production, it did for me leave me slightly deflated from what should have been a totally uplifting experience. Production and performance wise, it was merely functional, while never reaching that crucial point where I would happily watch again or recommend to a friend.

The biggest problem came from a feeling of a lack of heart. Scenes shifted promptly and never allowed the actors to live their roles, leaving a factory like process to proceedings. One of the biggest problems was that for well over half the show, the stage was not being used to anywhere near its potential. Many of the scenes were in front of a projection screen (more on this later) and also there was a huge amount of use of the aisles as well. Now this is something that I enjoy from many a show, when it becomes part of us. However much of this comes from it being a rare and cleverly used device, in Bugsy Malone it was pretty much endless and left it no longer an interesting surprising idea, we just waited for the next time for them to join us. We were in perfect seats to see this though, however for those more forward, they would have been failing to see a great deal of the action or creating a crick in their neck. What did work from the stalls action though were the bicycle and scooter usage and the really clever scene involving the relaying of information and weapon to Baby Face. There was however a scene involving the use of a chair that did set off all sorts of alarm bells though.

The projections already alluded to were a fabulous idea, on paper, but for many reasons at times it didn't quite work in practice. What did work were the simple bits like the dancing to the shadow during Tomorrow and a simple flick of the cancelled banner. However for much of the performance it provided an unnecessary distraction and often didn't work, with projections out of alignment or with the car scene, really to be honest, looking quite naff.

When the projection screen was not down, was when Bugsy Malone really showed how brilliant it could have been. Fat Sam's Grand Slam and So You Wanna Be A Boxer were spectacularly worked scenes with the former a showstopper, all excellently created and performed extremely professional by the cast.

I say professionally there delibrately to work in what I finally left feeling from the show. This being a community show at times for me, felt like it was actually trying too hard to be professional. I just felt that the drive to be that perfect had left the young cast in the position of not being allowed to live the characters, as they were always thinking of getting it just perfect. This left their performances often flat as a result.

A judge on Strictly Come Dancing once said that a performance was just too clean and precise, lacking that danger to make the piece come alive. For me that sums up Bugsy Malone, perfect in many ways but not quite as sparkling as I felt it could have been, and certainly what I really wanted it to be.

★★★½

Performance reviewed: Friday 26th, 2016 at the The Curve Theatre, Leicester

Bugsy Malone was performed between Friday 19th and Sunday 28th September, 2016

For further details about the The Curve Theatre, visit their website at 
http://www.curveonline.co.uk/

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