In the second of his exclusive rehearsal diary entries for Official London Theatre, Bugsy Malone’s choreographer Drew McOnie reveals details of an emotional week for the company as the young cast start to find their feet and some serious talent is uncovered in the process…
This week there is a new arrival in my theatrical schedule and he is causing much chaos, hilarity and confusion; Rodney Robbins my new puppy! Rodney has joined us at the theatre and is waiting eagerly in the wings…
Back in the dance studio we are heading towards the middle of our rehearsal process which sees the show taking significant shape. It also brings with it the challenges of reimagining a much loved film into a stage show. Whilst there are lots of these challenges there are also endless exciting discoveries, sometimes ignited from things that go wrong amidst what can only be described as the jubilant chaos of the young cast, and sometimes ignited from the original source material. It’s great to see how Sean [Holmes], our director, and the rest of the team responds to the youthful and high spirited energy in the room.
Particularly interesting and inspiring this week has been seeing how the performers with less experience start to fall in love with the theatre craft itself. Characters such as Doodle, Knuckles, Louella, Fizzy and Fat Sam have some wonderful comic lines, and seeing them enjoy the fruits of their labour in hitting the timing, projection and pace in the room is exciting.
In addition to the comic potential of the show there have been a couple of incredibly moving moments this week when two of the younger cast members really found their characters through song. One of our three extraordinary Blouseys sang Ordinary Fool in its entirety for the first time and took the roof off the rehearsal room. What was funny was that I had choreographed a whole transition to happen in the middle of the song and everyone in the cast was so entranced with the young actress’ vocal quality and commitment to the song, that none of the choreography happened. What was equally brilliant was the realisation that nothing should happen; a time when we are reminded that as much as we are leading the young cast… they, in turn, can lead us.
Another moment, and one that felt quite personal to me, was with one of our young Fizzys. The artistic expression and passion that he poured into the Tomorrow number gave me a sudden realisation of how much I related to him and his character. I had a bit of a hard time forming words when he looked to me afterwards for notes. Seeing a young boy standing on stage, singing “he was born to be a dancer” and realising that that was all his character truly wanted was really quite emotional. I was that young boy, a long time ago.
As the famous lyric goes, “we could have been anything that we wanted to be”. It’s so stirring to think that for these young stars the future is limitless and they have it all ahead of them! That’s the fantastic thing about Bugsy Malone, there is laughter and joyful silliness but there is also a real heart at the centre of the show.
Onwards to technical rehearsals on stage and getting closer to opening with every script page turned, note sung and dance step cleaned!
Bugsy Malone plays at the Lyric Hammersmith from 11 April. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website. You can also watch a video of Drew McOnie discussing the young company via the video tab at the top of this article.