Director James Dowson
Musical Director Brian Thomas
Lighting Design Paul Curtis
Costume Design Liz Milway
Choreographer Helen Garner
photos by Timothy R Winn
Combinations review by Julie Petrucci
Festival Players production of Mel Brooks’ irreverent and flamboyant musical, The Producers was all the pre-publicity promised – and more……
Max Bialystock, once the king of New York’s Broadway theatre-land is now notorious only for producing flops. Then he realises that if he could put on a show that’s so tasteless it’s guaranteed to fail, he could keep all the investment money! The all singing, all dancing Broadway spectacular Springtime for Hitler seems perfect – except there’s no accounting for taste!
This is one of my favourite shows. I saw the London production and also the show on tour, I have the CD/DVD etc. etc. so I went along with some trepidation to see the Festival Payers’ version.
Would I be disappointed? Would it live up to expectations?
The answer to the first is “No”; the answer to the second “More than”,
Director James Dowson really put his own mark on this show; deliberately setting out not to ‘compete’ with the London production. The settings were minimal yet depicted locations convincingly. The costumes were absolutely magnificent. Liz Milway and her wardrobe team are to be congratulated. The costume changes must have been a real challenge. The orchestra under MD Brian ‘Tommy’ Thomas was excellent. A couple of the singers were overpowered but that is a small gripe when everything else musically was so good.
There was an increased role for the chorus who had obviously worked long and hard: Along Came Bialy in Little Old Lady Land was hilarious; I Want to Be A Producer was a full blown production number complete with showgirls and Springtime for Hitler priceless. Helen Garner’s choreography was spot on and expertly executed.
There is more to this show however than the singing and dancing. It also calls for some great acting. Paul Garner was obviously born to play Max Bialystock. His was a supremely confident performance which couldn’t be faulted. Guy Woolf too, as gullible, neurotic Leo Bloom, was excellent, creating an endearing character. Davinia Denham provided the love interest with great style as the leggy Swedish blonde Ulla Inga etc. etc. . .
The role of Roger DeBris, the vain, camp, cross-dressing theatrical director was played most convincingly by Matt Gregory who was matched only too well by Oliver Fisher as the highly excitable Carmen. Keep it Gay with Roger and his ‘production team’ was a hoot. Which brings us to the German author of the musical: the slightly unhinged Franz Leibkind played with aplomb by James Hayward.
Festival Players have done it again with an excellent show running for 10 performances playing to capacity audiences. Congratulations to James Dowson, his cast and production team. This was the best amateur musical performance I have ever seen.