Review - Savoyards' The Producers: Just wonderful
Right: Joshua Thia as Leo Bloom.
Below right: Gary Rose as Max Bialystock and Joshua Thia
Bottom: Walter Lago as Franz Liebkind
A New Mel Brooks Musical
Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks
Presented by Savoyards
Iona Performing Arts Centre
85 North Road
Season: 23 September 23-October 7. Running time: 110 minutes (approx) including interval. Bookings: email@example.com or phone (07) 3893 4321.
The Producers is the story of a Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, who is down on his luck and a mild-mannered accountant, Leo Bloom who
between them concoct a scheme to produce the worst possible musical of all time and thereby skive off with all the dollars donated by their backers (little old ladies).
Only, it doesn’t exactly work out like that, and the show is an overnight sensation.
The musical follows the antics of Bialystock and Bloom as they search for that elusive show, which will bomb on opening night. They eventually find one called Springtime for Hitler, a musical so offensive, it will see New York having kittens. Then they have to negotiate with the writer to get the rights and then find a leading lady and the worst director of all time to cap it all off.
Gary Rose (Max Bialystock) and Joshua Thia (Leo Bloom) were perfectly paired on stage as the unlikely couple in cahoots. Their characterisations of the two characters were just wonderful – Rose effecting a lovely New York Jewish accent and Bloom as the timid, inexperienced accountant, in over his head at every turn.
They are supported by their four equally talented co-stars – Grace Clark (Ulla – the Swedish leading lady), Walter Lago (Franz Liebkind – the psychotic, pigeon-loving German writer), David Morris (Roger DeBris, the director) and Scott Edwards (Carmen Ghia – the director’s assistant), who are all absolute hoots in their respective roles. And also the rest of the cast who make this production go off with a bang. But it would be wrong not to also mention the pigeons, who accompaniment for Liebkind as he sings Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop, side-splitting funny.
The musical numbers that make up this production are hilarious and satirical. One of my favourites would have to have been I Wanna be a Producer, sung by Leo Bloom in the offices of Whitehall and Marks where he works.
Very clever use was made of a five cubicle ‘office’ space with filing cabinets in between, which opened up to reveal six chorus girls, each in the same outfit but a different colour. The one who really made a presence on stage though is the lady in orange with the tallest headdress – all the others had tulle hats with sparkly bits like an oversize shower cap, but this one was like one of Dr Seuss’ trees, with about five branches sporting orange tulle balls.
The costumes, and there were plenty of them, and loads of changes for the cast, had the ‘wow’ factor. Kim Heslewood (costume design) and the team outdid themselves. The bling of Broadway was ever foremost in their minds obviously when they designed the costumes — they even made Nazi uniforms sparkle for the dance numbers in the second half for Springtime for Hitler.
The costume that stands out however, is the gorgeous number designed for DeBris – a full length frock meant to resemble the Chrysler Building in New York, complete with an enormous ‘tiara’, stiletto heels even I would have trouble walking in, and of course, we get a flash of lovely pink bloomers underneath, as the members of DeBris’ household sing Keep it Gay, including three ring-ins from 70’s all male group — The Village People.
The stage set had a wonderful stylised New York skyline backdrop and this changed colour a few times depending on the scene. Bialystock’s apartment/office had an entranceway to stage right, windows and sofa stage centre and a desk and safe stage left. The entranceway swivelled for DeBris’ house (same shape, different colour). The windows for Bialystock’s office also swivelled, so that Ulla can be seen painting everything white. She has been hired on as Max and Leo’s assistant while waiting for the musical to commence rehearsal and this was her way of ‘tidying up’. The backstage crew worked really well getting pieces of furniture on and off seamlessly during blackouts.
The Director, Gabriella Flowers, Musical Director, Mark Beilby, and Choreographer, Hannah Crowther, have all done a marvellous job on this production. The singing, the dance numbers, the acting, all meld together to produce a superb piece of entertainment. The best dance number for me was the little old ladies and their Zimmer frames – extremely funny.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Producers. I have not been disappointed yet with any Savoyard production I have seen so far. There were some first night glitches, the microphones being one that spoilt it a bit with awful feedback, but I am sure these will iron out as the show really kicks into its season.
The Producers is simply an outrageous, over the top dig at Broadway in typical Mel Brooks’ style and well worth seeing.