Waterdale have struck comedic gold with their latest offering The Producers, a show so gay it flew away!
Mel Brook’s show follows Max Bialystock (played by Andrew McDougall), a down on his luck Broadway producer, who meets downtrodden but creative accountant Leo Bloom (played by Nick Rouse), who hatches a scheme to make money off a failed musical. Teaming up with a Nazi enthusiast, the worst director ever and a blonde bombshell, “Springtime for Hitler” is born on Broadway!
McDougall’s Bialystock is the perfect combination of weathered, cynical and conniving, a gravelly and clever producer, and his partner in crime Rouse as Bloom is an hysterical, nervous delight, bringing an anxious energy and franticness to the role. McDougall’s manic energy and deep character development comes out in ‘Betrayed’ as his biggest solo moment, and throughout the show makes light work of the complex dance steps. Rouse’s slapstick humour somewhat reminds me of Cosmo Brown from Singin’ in the Rain, with his physical comedy and ability to maneuver the stage prominent, especially in the early scenes with Bialystock.
Mikaela Farruggia is a knock out as Swedish blonde bombshell Ulla, with her song ‘If You Got it, Flaunt It’ being one of the highlights of the show. Her energy, grace and charisma shines through her innocent, ‘lost in translation’ but innuendo filled performance. Her flirtation with Bloom is so awkward, heartwarming and funny, you cannot help but cheer them on to get together.
Let’s not forget the effervescent Daniel Cooper as third-Reich enthusiast, and not so secret Nazi, Franz Liebkind. The audience is drawn to him each time he is on the stage, for his kooky performance, in both German and English, and his endearing and dorky dance moves. His passion for the Führer and his comedic timing have the audience in stiches.
The show is stolen by Wade Robinson as the flamboyant Roger De Bris and Daniel Allaoui as Carmen Ghia, a sequined, gayer than thou pair who run amok as the worst director ever and his right hand man. The chemistry between these two, as well as their banter, jokes and sheer presence shines throughout the show, and not just because of their fabulous costumes – they demand attention, and are completely in sync as a unit.
The show is also punctuated by wonderful cameos; James Phillips is a gruff and terrifying Mr Marx, De Bris’ gaggle of YMCA boys (and a gruff Shelley Dunlop) are a colourful and eclectic mix, and Giles Adams steals the show with his solo in ‘Springtime for Hitler’. These strong portrayals and the memorable characters created by the ensemble really tie this show together. In addition, the ensemble is a well oiled unit, in sync with each other and their choreography, and they are clearly having a ball performing the show.
Director Jesse O’Donnell’s directorial debut is a delight of wit, charm and a strong interpretation of the classic show. His cast is the strongest element of the show, and he has worked with them to deliver a strong vision and background to the story. Musical director Nicholas LaMattina’s band are on point, but often compete with the cast, and vice versa.
Costumes by Dee McDougall and Stephanie Black are a 1950s dream, flattering and flowing across the stage, perfectly constructed for the complex but well executed choreography by Megan Metcalfe. Metcalfe’s first foray into choreography for a full scale musical is beautiful, complicatingly fresh, bright and big Broadway moves that are also easy for her cast to execute. Never has there been a better use of a cast pinwheel that turns into a swastika, to the delight of the crowd.
Unfortunately the show is held back by some slow, messy and noisy set changes, which lead to dead time in the show between the energetic numbers and funny scenes. The show had a few opening night technical issues, from a few slow lighting cues and some issues with the microphone and band levels competing, and perhaps nerves leading to some rushing and missed cues on the casts’ part, but it is barely noticeable in this electric show.
If you’re a fan of The Producers or Mel Brooks, you don’t want to miss this show. The show plays at the Rivergum Theatre at Parade College until 1st October. Tickets are available at: https://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=210081