Stars of stage and screen attend the premiere of Bugsy Malone

06 May 2016

Stars of stage and screen flocked to the newly refurbished Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith to attend the premiere of Bugsy Malone last week.

New EastEnders star Bonnie Langford, West End legend Elaine Paige, actress Romola Garai and comedian Mel Giedroyc attended the first night, alongside McBusted star James Bourne and television presenters Janet Ellis and Gaby Roslin.

It’s the first time the Alan Parker-penned musical has been seen on stage in the UK for more than a decade – as the legendary director usually declines requests for similar productions.

But he was persuaded to do so for the first production undertaken by the Lyric Theatre, which has just reopened after a £20million refurbishment by Mace.

Speaking after he had seen the show for the first time at the premiere, Mr Parker said: “This is magnificent. I’ve never liked theatrical productions before but this is in a stratosphere somewhere else.”

Mr Parker said one of the reasons why he had been persuaded to grant the rights to the latest production was because of how much work The Lyric does with underprivileged children. “No one realises how hard it is — much harder than doing a totally adult piece. But there are so many talented kids here. I think my agent should sign everybody.”

And he said that the production was so good, it was even better than his classic 1976 film.

“I said to [artistic director] Sean Holmes: “Please just make it as good as the film,” he said. “When I was watching the rehearsals I said to him, ‘You’re not meant to make it better than the film!’. “In some ways, it is better.”

The redevelopment of the theatre is the first renovation work done to the building in 35 years. Aside from the main theatre, the building also now houses a new film studio, rehearsal rooms and spaces for writers, as well as a sensory room where disabled children can play with light and sounds, in the Reuben Foundation wing.

Atonement star Romola Garai, who has appeared in productions at the theatre, said facilities like these were important to nurture new talent. “Everybody who is working at the moment was supported or encouraged by organisations when they were young,” she explained.

Hammed Animashaun, 23, the oldest member of the Bugsy Malone cast, thanked the theatre afterwards. for “having the belief that young people have the power to be whatever they want to be”.

The show garnered unanimous praise by film critics. The Evening Standard wrote: “This is a joyous show and just about the perfect way to reopen the Lyric after its £20 million refurbishment.”

The Daily Telegraph gave the production five stars and said it was ‘a blast’.

“Where it counts – American accents, deadpan attitudes, dance-steps and vocal strength – the show delivers the goods with knock-out force,” wrote critic Dominic Cavendish.

Hello Magazine