It helps though that the cast is clearly all having fun, much more than in a previous production youth production I saw a couple of years ago. Owen Howard as the lead continues to grow as a performer on the stage in his turn here as the lead. He has a confident stage presence and more especially, a charm which makes Mr Malone here work on all levels. His partnership with Emily Abraham as Blousey Brown is captivating and sweet, as Abraham herself continues to grow as a performer. I said last year in my Fame review that she was already one to watch, and I am glad to see that she continues that upward curve here and she has one of the very best voices in the production. Also with brilliant vocals, Robyn Wilson makes a stirring Tallulah and is especially brilliant in the performance of My Name Is Tallulah. She is another who has shone before and part of the thrill of following the Youth Theatre is seeing them expand, with some of these performers I have had the pleasure of seeing them for five years now. Perhaps the scene-stealing performance though must go to William Phillips' Fat Sam, bringing so much more comedy out of the role than I have seen before. It's a gloriously wacky performance, and thrills with every appearance. Fabulous stuff!
The evening wasn't free from a few technical issues going on, the sound was a little unclear early on (but definitely did improve), and some bits of the set were managing to misbehave. In particular, one potentially awkward incident during Fat Sam's Grand Slam was really professionally handled by the young cast. Live theatre always creates these incidents, they cannot be avoided, it's how it is dealt with that is key, and here they were excellent, and very much working together.
There is no question that I enjoyed Bugsy Malone, and certainly more than a previous incarnation, however, it is a limited show in some areas, and with the slightly flimsy material of Fame last year, I feel next year the Youth Theatre need to go bold again and get back to the astronomic days of Oliver! and the simply incredible Sweeney Todd. The talent is still there in the group, all it needs is a much more meaty production to show it.
As it is, Bugsy Malone is everything you would expect, big and silly and the cast and team get everything possible out of the material.
Performance reviewed: Tuesday 10th July 2018 (Bonnie Company) at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.
Bugsy Malone runs at the Royal & Derngate until Sunday 15th July 2018.
For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/
Photos: Graeme Braidwood