Babirra has done it again! The veteran theatre company’s staging of Mel Brooks’ The Producers is a flawless, dazzling, side-splitting spectacular, that undoubtedly does justice to the source material. This production remains true to the irreverent and proudly politically incorrect satire of Mel Brooks’ 2001 musical, while innovatively finding ways to truly make the show its own.
Based on the 1967 film of the same name, the musical The Producers follows the story of a once highly successful yet disingenuous and morally bankrupt Broadway producer named Max Bialystock, who after having fallen from grace through a string of dismally received Broadway shows, concocts a scheme with his former accountant turned co-producing partner Leo Bloom, to defraud investors and earn considerable wealth through producing a sure fire theatrical failure that would arouse no suspicion of foul play from financial investigators. When aiming to find the worst production team possible, including finding the worst script, the worst acting talent, and the worst director, things do not at all go to plan, and through a series of comical misadventures with this cast of zany and outrageous characters, hilarity ensues.
The performances in this production are second to none, with every actor effortlessly conveying the required insane energy for their character. All the leading characters, including Bialystock, Bloom, Ulla, Roger De Bris, Franz Liebkind, and Carmen Ghia, are all brilliantly and without fault portrayed by their respective actors, committing wholeheartedly to the demanding high energy of the characterisation of these truly whacky characters. While Bialystock and Bloom are the focal point of the show and are the glue that hold it together, each lead receives at least one set piece and moment to shine and show off the zaniness and hilarity of the character. This praise of the acting quality undeniably extends to the chorus and supporting cast as well, whose electrifying energy and commitment to each scene really adds to the scenic environment and engrosses us into the crazy events being presented. Particular mention should go to Ashley McPherson, playing wonderfully camp and eccentric Nazi show writer Franz Liebkind, and Tim Addicoat, playing overly flamboyant and critically panned theatre director Roger De Bris, whose hilarious and scene stealing performances perfectly capture the over the top lunacy of the characters.
The production team behind the show should share the acclaim, as the creative decisions behind the scenes have effectively allowed the cast to shine. Karl McNamara’s direction is masterful, making full use of the fantastic space that the Whitehorse centre has to offer, allowing the cast to take their eccentric and colourful performances to full flight. McNamara doesn’t hold back in pushing the characters to their exaggerated extremes, which for this show is undeniably a positive. McNamara should also be commended for the incredible use of staging and blocking during scene changes, where characters interact and share comical moments while stalling for time while set changes or costume changes are taking place, astutely never not having something transpire on stage.
The musical direction and choreography are the real bread and butter of this show, and they do not at all disappoint, with the dazzling and colourful dance pieces and warm harmonies faultlessly living up to The Producers reputation in this regard. The outstanding and vibrant full cast tap routine in ‘I wanna be a Producer’, and the awe inspiring and seamless choregraphed sequence with the old ladies in ‘Along came Bialy’, are just a couple of moments that highlight Steve Rostron’s stellar choreography. The musical direction, including the impressive harmonisation in large scale and intimate numbers, and the stunning full orchestral big band numbers played to perfection, is a testament to Vicki Quinn and the orchestra, with numbers like ‘Springtime for Hitler’ a showcase of this vocal quality and orchestral talent on full display.
The costume design, sound design, set design, and lighting design, all work extremely well together with respect to presenting the stylised and polished finish product that the audience sees. Meredith Cooney has done a remarkable job in capturing the look and feel of the mid 1900’s time period, while reflecting the exaggerated and flamboyant lunacy of the characters, such as the Nazis and the loud costuming of Roger De Bris’ motley crew of associates. Steve Cooke’s sound design and quality was possibly of the highest standard I’ve seen in a community theatre production, with the audio quality reflecting that of a professional production with not a single technical or audio glitch heard. The set design under Garry Barcham and Kym Ramsdale is something to marvel at, with the intricate set pieces including Bialystock’s apartment, Roger De Bris’s lavish penthouse, and a Nazi cityscape, skilfully commanding the stage space of the Whitehorse centre. Daniel Gosling’s lighting design innovatively added to the required mood of the scene, particularly in the big choral numbers, with particular mention going to the use of the projector to convey words and imagery on the screen and curtain, adding another layer of comedy to the show.
Babirra’s The Producers is a truly flawless production. With the marvellously talented cast, and the overly impressive production team, who have reunited following their award-winning production of Thoroughly modern Millie, this show is definitely not one to miss. Babirra basks in the delightfully politically incorrect nature of the show, which allows the production to shine. It really is Springtime for Babirra and Whitehorse, and I encourage people to see this show before it closes on the 19th of October.
REVIEW BY CALLUM O’DOWD