Bugsy Malone is the story of two rival gangs battling it out in 1920s New York and it comes with all the types of characters you would expect in a gangster storyline.
There's the lovable rogue (Bugsy Malone), the two gang leaders - Dandy Dan and Fat Sam, the glamorous mobster girlfriend (Tallulah), and the wannabe actress and singer Blousey Brown.
Unlike any other mobster story you might have seen however, the weapons are replaced with custard pies and silly string, and the actors are all pint-sized in age, but not in talent.
The young cast of Hāwera Repertory's Bugsy Malone, under the excellent direction of Samantha Turner, give this slapstick play a fantastic burst of energy and fun that starts as the curtain goes up on the first act and leaves you tapping your toes long after the last curtain call.
As with any production, what you see on the stage is only half the story, and the clever and thoughtful choreography by Michelle Glover and Jamie Sayers really helps with the mood and storytelling throughout the show.
From the soft, almost melancholy performance by Sinead Clancy (Fizzy) as they sing the blues in the form of the wistful song Tomorrow and dance with their broom around the stage, to the exuberant and fast dancing to So You Wanna be a Boxer, the choreography is flawless throughout.
Noah Fortuin (Leroy) is a standout actor in this show. His portrayal of the "know nothing" reluctant boxer is nothing short of brilliant, while his voice was well suited to the songs his character has in the production.
When he, Cagey Joe (Jayden Kingi) and Bugsy (Josh Bird) led the ensemble in So You Wanna be a Boxer it felt as though we were watching actors far older and more experienced than we were. All three brought plenty of energy, talent and fun to the routine making it one of the most memorable moments of the show.
Noah's talent could have been a problem for the directing team as had he been paired with a weak Bugsy Malone the production could have hit problems, but with Josh Bird in the title role that was never going to be a risk.
Josh hit all the right notes, both musically and generally, as he played the role of the lovable rogue Bugsy. His strong stage presence helped keep the story moving along and he managed to naturally break the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience or referencing their presence, as comfortably as much more experienced actors have in other shows.
Bugsy's love interest, Blousey Brown, was superbly brought to life by Abigail Landsborough who leaves town the day after the show ends for the start of her university journey, meaning this may be her last performance for a while for Hāwera Repertory.
She made sure she will be missed by audiences of future shows by the company as she put everything she has into her portrayal of Bugsy's love interest and wanna-be singer and starlet. A talented singer and dancer as well as actress, her soulful voice was the perfect choice for Blousey's solos in the show.
Another strong voice in the show came from Savannah White who gave plenty of energy and a nice touch of sassiness to her role as Talllulah.
Her solo song came with a nice balance of that sass against the seductiveness of the lyrics and she did a brilliant job in keeping that balance throughout the show. On the subject of sass, Sativa Dwyer was another strong female character in this show, making her character Bangles an audience favourite.
When it comes to favourite characters in this show, Orlando Davidson's Knuckles certainly got some of the loudest applause from the opening night audience, and the praise of all three reviewers here.
There is real skill in playing a comedic character without overdoing it, and Orlando got that balance exactly right throughout the night. The loud applause after his performance in the song and dance routine Bad guys was well deserved and while all of Fat Sam's gang did a stellar job in this routine, there is no question Orlando was the star of that moment.
Comedy cops O'Dreary (played by Krzysztof Kowal) and Smolsky (Lucas Jacobson) kept the energy going well in their scenes, while Julia Scott's portrayal of Dandy Dan was delightfully dastardly throughout.
Under Samantha Turner's direction, this production is an absolute delight to watch and the talent on stage is perfectly paired with the talent in the orchestra pit. Musical director Shane Burgess, along with assistant musical director Noah Hunt, makes sure the talented band keep the pace going throughout.
The music was worth the ticket on its own for opening night, especially the saxophone solo by Liam Finer. Staging, lighting and sound were also all well done, while the costuming department pulled out all the stops, not only by the 1920s themed clothing, but also clever use of mainly black, white and grey in it all to give the whole show the feel of a black and white movie. That simple touch really tied the whole show together nicely and worked incredibly well.
Tickets for Bugsy Malone are on sale from iTICKET.co.nz or at the Hāwera iSITE.