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Deliciously Inappropriate: The Producers, BROS Theatre Company

20 October 2016

 

The Producers

BROS Theatre Company

Hampton Hill Theatre

17-22nd October 2016

Review by Mary Stoakes

‘Sheer, utter, unadulterated joy!’ was the verdict of the Daily Express when this show was produced professionally in 2004.   The same could be said about the 2016 BROS production at the Hampton Hill Theatre, which would not be out of place on the West End stage.

Mel Brookes is quoted as saying when his initial film was criticised for being vulgar – My film rises below vulgarity! This BROS production was full of gleeful disrespect and political incorrectness, which delighted this reviewer and the majority of the packed house.

The Producers teems with show-stopping musical numbers and dialogue with attitudes which are considered ‘inappropriate’ in 2016 – sexist, racist, homophobic and full of irreverent Mel Brookes’ gags.   Deb McDowell’s direction was spot on – satirising these most serious subjects with such delicious irony that the audience accepted and laughed at what is nowadays unacceptable.   The show moved with great pace and there was never a dull moment.

The Producers tells the story of a faltering Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, who is desperate to get back to the top of his profession. A nervous visiting accountant, Leo Bloom, fantasises that one could make far more money with a flop than a hit.  This idea is seized upon by Bialy and after some persuasion Leo joins him to produce the worst musical ever to hit Broadway.  When the show inevitably closes after one night they plan to take the money and head to Rio.  Much of the first act is taken up with their hilarious efforts to find, finance and produce such a show and in the second act we are treated to a long excerpt from their finished, tasteless product Springtime for Hitler!  This turns out to be a smash hit with the Broadway theatre goers, Bloom flees to Rio with Ulla, their glamorous secretary and Bialy is left to face the music.

Dance routines for zimmer-framed, sex-starved old ladies and parades of storm troopers, camply goose stepping, were just some many of the delights in the accomplished chorus work, choreographed by Jennifer Moorhead.

The part of Max Bialystock needs a performer of special talent and charisma to make the show work. Brian Cardus has these qualities in spades – he was superb, vocally and dramatically.  His comic timing and physical agility were exceptional and sent waves of laughter through the audience. Betrayed, his long meditation when all has gone wrong, which in some productions can seem over long, was a tour de force of both acting and singing and one almost felt sorry for this monster!

Tom Cane made an ideal Leo Bloom, diffident and goofy at first and blossoming into an excellent tap dancer in I Wanna be a Producer  when all his repressed ambitions are revealed.  His subsequent ‘journey’ then becomes his ‘Bloomsday’. His interaction with the other principals, and ‘arpeggios of neuroticism’ were spot-on, especially his relationship with Ulla, the Swedish blonde bombshell.

Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yensen Tallen Hallen Swaden Swanson was played by Rachel Williams. When you’ve got it, Flaunt It, she sang in her opening number and she certainly did – a knock-out performance in all aspects, singing, dancing, acting and doing the ‘splits’ .

More comic relief – if any were needed – was provided by Chris Morris as the transvestite producer, soon to be lead artiste, of Springtime for Hitler. Chris with Matthew Madeley as his inamorato, Carmen Ghia (!), pondered their involvement deftly in To be or not to be and then decided with the rest of the company to Keep it Gay.

 Springtime for Hitler, the chosen script, was the work of an former Nazi Storm Trooper, Franz Liebkind – a man obsessed by the past and his (wonderfully realistic) singing pigeons!  Nigel Cole, perhaps better known to the patrons of Hampton Hill Theatre for more serious roles, was unrecognisable with his helmet and lederhosen as this ardent supporter of Adolf Elizabeth Hitler.  His comic timing was immaculate and the Der Gluten Tag Hop-Clop (an old Bavarian Dance) with Leo and Bialy, although totally OTT, brought the house down!

The musical director was Janet Simpson and as ever in BROS productions, without exception the principals and chorus were in great voice and the singing was of a uniformly high standard. The band, led by Carole Smith on Keyboards, supported the singers and the action unobtrusively and sympathetically.

A great evening’s entertainment and once again congratulations to all at BROS for this revival of a great comic musical.

 

Mary Stoakes

October 2016

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