You might need a trip overseas (well, to Newport on the Isle of Wight) if you want to see the latest musical show from the Mitre Players. Our arts correspondent, BELLA BARTOCK, caught it closer to home
As I shuffled into the Trinity school old boys’ club house, I feared the worst.
The village hall-style room had its seating laid out cabaret-style, which can often be most agreeable. But for the seats at the back of the room, there was less leg room than on an overbooked Ryanair flight. Or so I was led to believe. I would never dream of stooping so low as to board an aircraft without the sure and certain knowledge that my required seat had been properly reserved for me.
And while it is mid-July, I was grateful for having the presence of mind to have brought my vintage white fox stoll with me: the air conditioning had been turned up to 11, giving the hall the chill air of winter.
More warming, though, was the number of fellow theatre-goers and arts-lovers who had arrived for the opening night of Bugsy Malone, too. Tickets, I was assured, are like gold dust for this first run of shows in Croydon, which continues tonight through to Friday, but are already sold out.
For new readers (meaning those born after the end of the last century), Bugsy Malone was originally a 1976 movie written and directed by Alan Parker. The cast then was made up entirely of children, including the precocious Jodie Foster. The Mitre Players treading the boards at Lime Meadow Avenue this week are, it is fair to say, a little older, though they still made the most of the opportunities afforded by the play’s use of toy tommy guns and foam.
Within seconds of the musical’s beginning, the performers were all over the stage and all around the auditorium. There were three deaths within a minute. There seemed to be an attempt to outdo grand opera: before the final curtain, I counted nine deaths and seven other shootings.
But as all the shooting is done with out-sized toys, there was no need for any stage blood. If you are in the front row, expect to be collateral damage, foam-wise.
Fat Sam’s “Grand Slam” headlining song will cheer you and also reassure there’s still time for us all to aspire to become a chorus girl, even me…
The cast’s New York accents are well maintained such that when the tone is more south London than the Bronx, it has an unintended comic effect.
Natasha Palmer is convincing as an aspiring dancer and some time maid, Fizzy, who is always told to “come back tomorrow”. It’s not clear whether that’s to clean or to audition, although there’s always plenty of splurge gun foam to sweep away.
Palmer’s strength makes up for some occasional thin vocals in other female leads.
Mike Lilley is deliciously threatening as Fat Sam and Ziggi Szafranski, too, as Babyface in one of his cameo parts.
Indeed, the numerous cameo parts throw Chris Backway’s character acting skills into very positive relief. Comic effect and facial expression are to be savoured in this close up small auditorium. He can look like Owen Jones, who could do with mockery at times.
The band were, of course, excellent. But you’ll not be able to see them in Sanderstead, now all the tickets have been sold. They are packing up their instruments and foam guns and heading off for the Apollo Theatre on the Isle of Wight from July 30.
- Under The Flyover – The Inside Croydon Podcast: Episode 1, Mark Butcher on music, racism and Ashes cricket. Listen here
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