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Reviews

BUGSY MALONE

Director Keith Badham
Musical Director—Angela Kershaw
Music and lyrics by Paul Williams
Written by Alan Parker
Grove Theatre, Dunstable
13 January 2008

Once upon a time, an actor/director founded a new youth theatre in Barton, meeting on two evenings weekly. Fifteen months later, 72 youngsters aged 5—17 were eagerly, energetically and enthusiastically craving all the innovative creativity possible. A first show early in 2007 in Hitchin increased the membership to over 70 performers – so how does one put them all into a show providing potential for individual development of confidence and skills?

Bugsy—of course—but where? A solution and happy ending to the 15 month fairytale debut of Up-Stage : the new Grove Theatre, Dunstable waved its magic wand and, following on the heels of the first amateur production by DAOS at the Grove late in 2007—a hugely successful 42nd Street—72 kids, many of whom had never been on stage before—congregated with a full house of families and friends at this intimate, full scale professional 780 seat theatre.

Director Keith Badham, aware of the challenge, and with his trusted crew and musicians produced a most infectious adaptation of the 1976 film, paring down scenes to brief and longer walk on monologues, dualogues and rollicking full chorus numbers, each scene change darkening to dusk with nightsky backcloth returning to daylight for subsequent action – and action-packed it was!

Bugsy Malone is an Al Capone gangster-style 1930s story of two gangs in Prohibition-gripped Chicago—Fat Sam’s Grand Slam speakeasy and Dandy Dan, the latter abusing the other’s business interests including the manufacturer of a new custard used to top special pies! Add to the picture of custard pie throwing, the DD gang’s weapons—splurge guns—a  freewheeling ‘down on his luck’ boxing promoter, Bugsy Malone and a few sleazy jazz /blues singing ‘molls’ –  and with 72 kids on stage, and how could the show fail?

To enable all age performers equal opportunity, the first half was cast amidst the under 11s and the second from teenage players. The chorus numbers comprised the whole cast and were quite magnificently appealing, choreographically and vocally, all words clearly audible. A diminutive first Bugsy in black trilby and baggy black and white pin striped suit was astoundingly word perfect! Confident, understated and perhaps 4’6” tall, he attempted to impress his chosen ‘bird’ Blousey, a singer, new in town, dripping with white fur, a pink wide brimmed ‘summer’ hat and holdall—perhaps 5’2” tall!!

Such was the show throughout: glamorous, stylish, pacy with great comedic timing amidst some players. The tall partnering the small—tiny people with natural stage presence—teenagers with stylish sultry glamour, excellent solo ability—all dressed to kill! A young man singing Tomorrow brought extremes of pathos, the two female leads’ My Name is Tallulah and a big chorus number So You Wanna be a Boxer are particularly memorable but amongst a whole set of superb performances. Even the odd bits that went wrong and corrected  brought warm empathetic applause and became part of the show.
Super music from several Bedfordshire Music tutors, some recorded tracks, a versatile three level set and …..two vintage cars of the time—which brought the house down! So did the kids! Look out for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Ampthill and Flitwick where two further Up-Stage groups rehearse. Such huge fun both behind and in front of the curtains.  Look out Broadway—Up-Stage has the future in its capable hands!
Sandra Dudley

Zigger Zagger – A Review by Parker S Tilo
The Queen Mother Theatre in Hitchin has seen many fine productions over the years, performances that have captivated, shocked, surprised and enthralled audiences and critics alike. With this in mind I was honoured to take my seat in the fine auditorium, the first critic to be invited to witness a new production of “Zigger Zagger” by Peter Terson performed by a new youth group called “Up-Stage”. This powerful drama following a time in the life of Harry from football hooligan to young man in love was adapted and directed by Keith Badham, founder of “Up-Stage” There was a buzz of excitement around the theatre as the lights dimmed and the show began, on stage were a group of children, a wide age range, a wide acting ability and a keenness to perform well. The main speaking parts were split amongst 4 children for each role, each main character depicted with a distinctive piece of costume be it a hat, a vicars robe or the most fantastic that has been seen since Vera Duckworth on Coronation Street! We had been promised at the start of the play a mixture of talent; “Some have acted before, some haven’t” we were told, but as the play progressed I was hard pressed to tell the so called beginners from the so called experienced actors, the standard was set from the very start and was immensely high. Although I am unable to pick stars of the show as in my opinion they were all stars I would like to make mention of the wonderful cast members who were crowd and supporters throughout, it is probably one of the hardest jobs in acting to be the crowd, and if done badly stands out, but this crowd stood out for all the right reasons, their football chants and songs were performed with as much skill and professionalism as the main speaking parts. The actors carried me along moving the story with pace, skill, humour, seriousness and an extreme amount of talent. More than once I had to pinch myself to remind me that this really was the first time this group had acted together before and that they were all amateur; I have seen sloppier performances from so-called professional groups.
The Play came to an end too soon for me I could have sat through more, and so could the audience if the claps and cheers that followed were anything to go by. This was a play that captivated, shocked, enthralled and surprised not only the audience but this critic aswell…it only remains to be said “Bring on the next one”…and….
““Zigger Zagger Zigger Zagger Oi Oi Oi!!!”