Bugsy Malone

JOHN LAWSON Norfolk Youth Music Theatre at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

JOHN LAWSON

It may have been fireworks all the way outside, but sadly the bonfire never really caught fire inside the Maddermarket.

But the “guys” that the hardworking young cast should be burning are writers Alan Parker and Paul Williams rather than show director Adrian Connell.

Bugsy – the story of kids playing gangsters with custard pies and silly string as weapons instead of guns – may have worked well on screen, but its endless short scenes are a nightmare for any director trying to inject some pace into proceedings on stage and even the usually-excellent NYMT are up against it.

Connell goes for the pantomime approach, even introducing a tap-dancing chicken as a splurge gun-wielding cameo, but he is fighting rather a losing battle with a show that is seriously showing its age.

The only scenes that really ignite are the two renditions of its big production number, Fat Sam's Grand Slam.

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That said, there are a few sparklers among individual performances, notably Grace Birchall as the aptly-named Fizzy, Jamie Wallace as failing gangster Fat Sam and Jessica Staufenberg, who certainly knows how to belt out a tune.

Stella Merz, another of the predominantly very young principals, has her moments as Blousey, particularly in the beautifully sung Ordinary Fool.

But the real Roman candle in the box is Eloise Secker, as Tallulah, who has the lot – stage presence, poise, natural acting ability and a strong singing voice.

Hopefully we'll get to enjoy her – and the others – in a far better vehicle than this.

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