– by Chantelle Pitt
Who would have thought that a story about gangsters, gangs and money could be portrayed as childish and innocent? Phoenix Theatre presents Bugsy Malone, a gangster musical with a twist – all the characters are played by children.
In a New York world of gangsters and showgirls, one man narrates a feud between two rival gang leaders, “Fat” Sam Staccato (Ashley Garner) and Dandy Dan (Julian Menek). That man is Bugsy Malone (Connor Gosati) who also serves as tour guide and potential love interest to city newcomer Blousey Brown (Sarah Rose Kelly). The set mainly consists of furniture on wheels to make changes easy and to make use of the space in front of the stage curtain. Each set has been designed to maximise efficiency and to spread out the even use of the stage; a thoughtful choice from director Jodie Innes.
I truly believe this was an outstanding youth musical, with a large cast who all contributed to the action on stage. Gosati’s standout performance as the lead character Bugsy proved to be an excellent casting choice due to his wonderful portrayal of a 1920’s gangster with the convincing voice and the attitude to match. I was, however, disappointed by the choice to include a scene based in a Chinese laundry that was overflowing with blatant stereotypes. I was honestly appalled. Given that I have Asian heritage, I was also offended. I was offended by the choice to include this scene in the play along with the racist portrayal of Chinese women in the laundry. The costumes, accents and the stereotypically racist gibberish masquerading as language were completely unnecessary to the plot. I am disappointed the director chose to include such an offensive scene in a production shown in the 21st century. It is especially troubling because the cast is full of children and many of the actors have used this production to introduce their acting skills to the community. On a positive note, I am pleased to note that Phoenix Theatre has changed their lighting since I last visited and it was one of the highlights of the show; the stage was evenly lit and it made seeing the actors easier.
Apart from that one horrible void in the show, I do believe that Bugsy Malone was very well done and they all should be very proud of the work that they have accomplished. This production somehow makes gangsters and crime seem funny and childish. It plays at the Phoenix Theatre until Saturday 18th of July. It’ll be a fun night out for both adults and children.
Bugsy Malone ends on Saturday July 18th. Please visit their website for more information on show dates and bookings.
Photos contributed by the Phoenix Theatre Company.