I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down in row T of the Grand Opera House last night, but it sure as hell wasn’t the spectacular performances I had the privilege of seeing. Based on the 1976 comedy-musical of the same name, Bugsy Malone tells the story of two rival gangs in 1920s New York City, one run by Dandy Dan and one by Fat Sam. When Dandy Dan gets too big for his britches, Fat Sam brings in ex-boxing promotor Bugsy to give his rival and his boys a run for their money.
Professionally directed and choreographed with a full live band accompaniment, the Grand Opera House’s production of Bugsy Malone features one hundred and fifty talented 10 to 18 year olds. The Grand Opera House’s promotion is correct in their assertion that the play is ‘brilliant gangster movie spoof where the message is one of good, clean fun, where the adults are kids, the songs and lyrics are infectious and sassy, and the characters are wonderful cartoon cut-outs.’
What struck me first was the authenticity of the accents: each character had a perfect grasp of the 20’s New York accent, some better than I’ve heard from established actors with dozens of films in their filmography (I’m looking at you, Leo). Next was the set design. It felt genuine, as if it had been lifted from the streets of New York itself! It was like being taken back in time to the glamour of the Art Deco scene, especially with the beautiful costumes. The director’s utilisation of the limited set was fantastic, as was the choreographer Rebecca Leonard for her incredible work with the chorus.
The cast were unbelievable! Robbie McMinn’s Bugsy is shady but endearing. His body language made me forget that I was watching a play, for he completely embodies the NYC ‘this and that’ man of the 1920s. Caroline McMichael’s leading lady Blousy Brown, a tenacious singer with her heart set on Hollywood, captures Bugsy’s heart and it’s not difficult to see why. McMichael’s performance is one of delicate strength and determination, and her solo singing was phenomenal. Jasmine Mirfield, channelling Jodie Foster in her performance as Fat Sam’s girl Tallulah, was equally fantastic. For a young girl, she has a powerful and confident voice that captured the audience’s attention completely. The young lads who played the gangsters deserve every applause they get. Fionntan MacGiolla Cheara captivating and utterly believable as Fat Sam, his passion for the character coming through in every line of dialogue. The goons also received well-deserved big laughs, as did the inept detectives on the case. Special mentions should also go to the talented young man who played Fizzy, whose solo performance blew me away, and the fantasticly menancing young girl who played diva Lena Marellia.
Overall, I was blown away by the talent of the Grand Opera House’s Summer Youth Project, and I cannot wait to see where the cast end up.
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