Thursday, 29 October 2015

"The Producers"
Burton Musical Theatre Company.

Directed by Karen Hambleton and musically directed by David Blackwell, this is Mel Brooks's shining moment as far as I'm concerned.

In New York in 1959, Max Bialystock opens "Funny Boy", a musical version of Hamlet. It is terrible, and the show closes after one performance. The next day, Leo Bloom, a mousy accountant, comes to Max's office to audit his books. He tells Max that if he produces a musical which flops, it is financially better for him as he wouldn't have to pay back his investors. After a bit of trepidation Leo decides to help Max with this plan because Leo has always wanted to be a Broadway producer. They find the perfect "flop" and set about getting it staged, but all does not go as planned for the pair....

I've seen a couple of amateur productions of "the Producers" but I can say, hand on heart, that this is the best one so far. The first thing that hits you is the amazing orchestra of sixteen. the venue, de Ferrers Academy in Horninglow, have brilliant acoustics and the power house of sound from the orchestra hits you square in the face. Crisp, clear and powerful, and even with this power, you can hear every word from the actors.

Steven Foster (Max) and O.J. Wright (Leo) are an inspired pairing as our two producers. O.J. is wonderfully nervous in Leo's shoes, dependent on his little blue blanket for comfort, while Steven's Max is the total opposite. Completely confident in every area of his life, doing what he has to do to get to the place he wants to be, sometimes shockingly so!

Max finds the sure-fire flop that would offend people of all races, creeds, and religions: Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden written by Franz Liebkind, which Max describes as "a love letter to Hitler".Franz is played by Andrew Hambleton, completely over the top crazy, which is how Brooks envisaged his idea of this crazy German should be. The three perform a wonderfully wacky "Der Guten Tag Hop Clop" before permission is given for the play to be produced.

And so to getting a director on board and that is the job of the very camp Roger Debris (Mark Hargreaves) and his sidekick Carmen Ghia (Grant Fern).I think you'll get the picture of these two by the song they and Debris' crew sing in "Keep It Gay". They made the Village People look butch!

Now with all this testosterone around, Leo is worried, and by the looks of Debris gang, so he should. But worry not, because in steps the uber sexy Swedish bombshell, Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson, or Ulla as she is referred to in the show. Ulla is played by Christina Bailey and has a beautiful voice and an equally attractive body as well, which does not go unnoticed by both our red-blooded Producers. Bit difficult not to notice with the stage costumes she has!!

A tight ensemble, and no, that's not a euphemism, although it could be with Lee Smith's little red number, create a wall of sound to complement the orchestra. The sets were cleverly installed and removed while the final parts of the musical numbers were being sung. This made for a smooth transition from scene to scene without hanging around, moving the action along nicely.

With such a large cast, twenty eight in all, Karen Hambleton may have had a job on her hands as the director but the whole show ran like clockwork, a credit also to the stage manager, Derval Lester. Only one stage manager for all that work?

Brilliant choreography for some pretty technical dance and tap routines from Catherine Moore, and some A-MAZ-ING costumes partly sourced from theatrical costumers, but the rest being the hard work of Fiona Wright. There may have been a shortage of some of the material though for a few of the lads, so to find out what I mean, you'll have to go and see what I mean.

Sound is by Andy Onion who creates crystal clarity in the mix and the lighting is the design of Mike Thompson with construction by Mike, Keith Dadley, Simon Tipping, matt Kedracki and O.J. Wright.

The musical is cheeky, saucy, very tongue in cheek and a whole lot of fun. It's big, brassy and very colourful. It also has additional extras included to keep it fresh and updated, plus it even manages to get a plug in for their next show in February 2016 without even trying because it's written in the script. How clever is that?

You can see "The Producers" at de Ferrers Academy in Horninglow, Derbyshire up to Saturday 31 October 2016, but hurry to get those tickets as I went on their third day and this was practically a sell out, so the weekend may now be close to selling out.

I loved it. You'll love it. Now go see it!

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