Review: Bugsy Malone by Flying Ducks Youth Theatre

Guys and molls… Bugsy (Aaron Blanchard) and Blousey (Zoe Blenkiron) star in Bugsy Malone. Photographs: Flying Duck Youth Theatre

Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Sat, Mar 19 @ 7.30pm; Sat matinee at 2.30pm

£10 adults, £8 concessions

Flying Ducks website

Be warned if you’re near the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in the next few days. There are some heavies just itching to ice you with a splurge gun…

The cast of Flying Ducks Youth Theatre have turned this little corner of north York into 1920s Noo Yoik, filled with wise-cracking mobsters, tough-talking broads and a singer who dreams of making it big in the pictures.

It all starts with a bang – or at least a splurge – as besuited hoodlums wordlessly take out Roxy Robinson and a hotshot lawyer using those famous shaving-foam shooters.

Don't mess with the Haxby Road hoodlums
Don’t mess with the Haxby Road hoodlums

Turns out Fat Sam, who runs the Grand Slam speakeasy, is under attack from rival mobster Dandy Dan’s gang. Suffering heavy losses from regular splurgings he engages Bugsy to help – when he’s not sweet-talking singer Blousey Brown. But who will triumph?

Really though, the plot is a side issue. Bugsy Malone is entertaining escapism, less a coherent story than a series of numbers and skits which allow as many of this energetic cast to shine as possible.

Much rests on the eponymous hero, Bugsy himself. Played by a spry and twinkly Aaron Blanchard, Bugsy’s irrepressible charm is the centrifugal force around which the chaos coalesces.

Bugsy is ably supported by Zoe Blenkiron as a fully-realised Blousey, able to switch from sharp-tongued to sweet in the pivot of a stiletto. And when the spotlight falls on her for solos including I’m Feelin’ Fine, she showcases a lovely voice.

A real hoot

Meet the gang…
Meet the gang…

It’s a production with some notable female performances. Chloe Nunn as Tallulah has a great way with a one-liner, and a singing voice to match, and there are impressive cameos by Alex Prezeau and others.

George Plant has a stage presence big enough to fill the suit of Fat Sam, a hyperactive bundle of noives who drinks his own bar dry to forget the blunders of his gang. And a special word for Knuckles (Guy Whyte), Louis (Curtis Bowman), Snake Eyes (Oliver Brownsword) and Ritzy (Archie Plant) who take the idea of bungling to hilarious new levels of ineptitude. Their version of We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted To Be is a real hoot.

Fun too are the dim-witted coppers Captain Smolsky (André JH Vasconcelos) and his sidekick O’Dreary (Gabriella JH Vasconcelos – no relation. Only joking). André does a fine job in his second role as Cagey Joe, with So You Wanna Be a Boxer? a number pulled off with great verve.

And well done to Tom Wilson who brought a nice touch of menace to Dandy Dan, taking to the stage despite having been struck by illness.

Director Rachael Snelgove and some very smart set design by Stephen Outhwaite contrive to bring this series of escapades into a coherent whole, while the music is in the seasoned hands of musical director Don Pears. And while the pace could do with tightening up a notch that is likely to happen as the young cast grows in confidence for the rest of the run.

Madcap, silly, fun and touching, Bugsy Malone is a feelgood show with more slapstick than a week of panto. Quite how none of the cast ends up sliding off the stage into the stalls on all that discarded foam is testament to some nimble-footwork and a lot of mopping by bar janitor Fizzy (a plaintive performance by Sam Baskeyfield).