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Bugsy Malone review at Lyric Hammersmith, London – ‘irresistible’

Bugsy Malone ensemble at Lyric Hammersmith, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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London’s Lyric Hammersmith reopened after a £20m redevelopment programme just over a year ago with a rollicking revival of Bugsy Malone. Now it has returned to the scene of the crime and grime by reprising it for the entire summer.

Bugsy is a one-of-a-kind children’s musical: there are no cute orphans or streetwise urchin pickpockets. Instead the kids play 1920s Chicago gangsters and showgirls engage in an alternately gritty and glamorous turf war.

There’s no blood, only custard and punctured egos, as the characters repeatedly splurge each other with pies or goo dispensed from custom-built guns. There’s an irresistible tension between the seeming innocence of the children and the knowingness of a show in which violence simmers just below the surface.

Sean Holmes’ production gets the tone – simultaneously ironic and serious – just right, with Jon Bausor’s design and James Farncombe’s lighting offering a suitably gritty backdrop. But the show is a triumph above all for the astonishing company of young performers – a rotating team of seven principals – and a permanent ensemble of slightly older performers, as well as the utterly exhilarating choreography of Drew McOnie.

So You Wanna Be a Boxer remains the most punchily choreographed scene of any musical in London, and pint-sized Alessandro Bonelli – playing Dandy Dan at the performance reviewed – is mesmerising, with a real sense of violent containment, Adryan Dorset-Pitt is adorable in the title role, while Rhianna Dorris and Tabitha Knowles exude glamour as Tallulah and Blousey.

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Verdict
Lively revival of the classic children’s musical, tightened up since its 2015 debut
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