The Producers

March 23, 2016 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆   Solid

Church Hill Theatre: Tue 22 – Sat 26 Mar 2016
Review by Thom Dibdin

It’s springtime for EMT and parody up at the Church Hill Theatre this week as the amateur musicals company bring their doughty staging of The Producers to life.

It’s a production which is big on musical performances, getting right in amongst the numbers of Mel Brooks tale of Max Bialystock – Broadway producer and one-time big shot (so he says) – thanks to solid musical direction from Linda Stewart.

Henrietta Linnemann (Ulla) with Andrew McDade (Max) and Jerrard Doran (Leo). Photo: Alan Potter

Henrietta Linnemann (Ulla) with Andrew McDade (Max) and Jerrard Doran (Leo). Photo: Alan Potter

While the same kind of justice is not done to the staging as it is to the tunes, the big numbers and choreography are good enough. But there is plenty of room to discover a broader comedy to the characters than the rather cartoonish elements here.

Fortunately, the success of The Producers largely rests on a strong relationship between Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, his nerdy, frightened accountant who reveals that Bialystock is making money out of shows which flop. And it is one which EMT get right.

Andrew McDade is on great form as Bialystock, putting in a busy, bustling performance that is the antithesis to Jerrard Doran’s big feartie Leo Bloom. They are a great odd-couple, easily believable as they go about their cunning plan to stage the greatest flop on Broadway. McDade could go bigger if he wanted, but Doran is perfect in the way Bloom gains confidence over the whole show.

What is really lacking here is a strong dynamic to their direction. Between its big numbers – and succession of great crowd-scenes which are perfect for a company such as this – The Producers is a pretty wordy affair. The comedy lies in dialogue which needs to sparkle and physical slapstick which needs to flit back and forth across the stage.

Cypher

Director Joel Mason does enough to keep it on the rails, but little more. This is most obvious in the scenes in Bialystock’s office where the pair dream up their scheme to overcapitalise the show with cheques from his collection of well-off old ladies in search of one final fling.

Andrew McDade (Max) and Gerrard Doran (Leo). Photo: Alan Potter

Andrew McDade (Max) and Gerrard Doran (Leo). Photo: Alan Potter

Least well served is Ulla, the blonde Swedish sexpot who the pair hire to be their “secretary-stroke-receptionist”. Henrietta Linnemann works hard in the role but Mason just doesn’t help her bring out the character at all, seeming content to leave her as a cypher. Lacking sharpness of movement there are whole scenes where she merges into the background when she could be pulling the focus of a scene.

There also seems to have been a breakdown in communication in some point between the blocking of the stage and the creation of the lighting scheme. Too often, too many of the company are in darkness.

In the search for a guaranteed flop, Bialystock and Bloom find Franz Liebkind’s Springtime for Hitler – guaranteed to offend every minority. This, they propose to stage as a musical with direction from the outrageously camp Roger de Bris, helped by his equally outrageous aide, Carmen Ghia.

This trio of characters lend themselves to great comic turns. Scott Kenneway is a bouncing ball of fascist fury as Liebkind – his Have You Ever Heard the German Band is hilarious and superbly choreographed.

Strutting and mincing his way around the stage, Luke Smith’s Carmen Ghia is a real treat too. Big, exaggerated flounces and pouting put-downs to Fraser Shand’s equally up-to-high-dough Roger de Bris ensure that their scenes run with a real snap.

peach

Musically, the show is a peach. There are some rough edges from the pit, but there’s never any holding back. The ensemble are all given plenty to do and create little characters who can develop nicely through each number. And they relish the opportunities given to them.

Leo's daydream: Jerrard Doran with showgirls and accountants. Photo: Alan Potter

Leo’s daydream: Jerrard Doran with showgirls and accountants. Photo: Alan Potter

And Choreographer Bekki Wallace has done a great job with set piece numbers such as the Busby Berkeley zimmer frame old ladies ‘Til Him and Leo’s daydream in I Wanna Be A Producer with a proper bevy of chorus girls and backing of jaded accountants.

Not to forget the great, glorious riot that is Springtime for Hitler itself. Complete with goose-stepping Storm Troopers, bouncing show girls and its notoriously outré asides.

Mason’s decision to go for minimal staging keeps it relatively tight, even if the whole does run a little long. However, there are times when you just wish he would give more attention to the detail – where relatively large gains could be made from modest tightening up.

But what matters is that this is a fun night out which gives more than a taste of The Producers as a musical, as it tells its big story with some strong main performances and delightful cameos.

Running time 2 hours 50 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 22 – Saturday 26 March 2016
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee sat 26: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: http://edinburghtheatre.co.uk/the-producers/

EMT website: http://www.edinburghtheatre.co.uk/
EMT on facebook: edinburghmusictheatre

The company. Photo Alan Potter

The company. Photo Alan Potter

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Your comments