Bugsy Malone to re-open the new Lyric Hammersmith – with creator’s blessing

11 October 2014, The Evening Standard

The multimillion-pound project is the theatre’s first major renovation in 35 years

The first professional London production of Bugsy Malone in over a decade will re-open the Lyric Hammersmith after its £16.5 million redevelopment.

The expansion and modernisation works are due to be completed in April next year. The musical’s writer and director, Sir Alan Parker, frequently turns down offers to stage it, but he said: “I’ve always loved that Bugsy Malone is performed so often as a play in schools but, to be honest, I never ever liked the previous professional on-stage versions.

“In fact, in recent years, I have actively discouraged professional productions. However, meeting a few times with [artistic director] Sean Holmes of the Lyric and listening to his excellent ideas, I decided to give a stage production my blessing. I wish Sean and everyone involved well.”

The multimillion-pound project is the theatre’s first major renovation in 35 years. It includes a new two-storey extension called the Reuben Foundation Wing, which will house dance, TV and recording studios, a screening cinema and a “digital play space” to test new media technology. It will be used by young people to help develop emerging talent.

New windows and insulation, and a modern facade will help make it more eco-friendly.

Jessica Hepburn, executive director of the Lyric, said: “This has been years of planning and fundraising — I can’t wait for people to come and see what we’ve done to the Lyric. I think they’re going to be amazed.

“The biggest part of the project is our two-storey extension, which has been built after a generous donation from [billionaire British philanthropists] the Reuben brothers.”

The funding came from sources including Hammersmith and Fulham council, Arts Council England, the Department of Education and the Mayor of London.

Ms Hepburn added: “There isn’t going to be another producing theatre in London quite like it and there will be no better place for young people and emerging artists to develop their creative talent. Bugsy Malone is the perfect production to open the Lyric’s new chapter.”

Mr Holmes said casting is taking place now and will involve children aged nine to 18. He added: “I happened to have the same agent as Sir Alan and he agreed to meet me. When I talked to him in terms of what we are trying to do with young people at the Lyric and that we were trying to do something original — not just copy the film — he agreed. “Bugsy Malone feels like the perfect show to open the new Lyric. A work of left-field genius with young people at its heart, it feels like the quintessential Lyric show: celebratory, inclusive and surprising.”

Bugsy Malone: Sir Alan Parker on the original set