“This show is the worst thing this reviewer has ever had the misfortune to sit through! It should have closed at the interval it was so deplorably bad! Actually it should have never been staged in the first place!”
These are the warped hopes of would-be Broadway producers Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom in Mel Brooks’ wacky musical play The Producers. Together they plan to find the worst play ever written; hire the worst director in New York; raise two million dollars from a bunch of rich old ladies; hire the worst actors in New York and as they close on Broadway after the first night, run off with their two million to Rio. In the world of wacky comedies things never go to plan. In Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan’s hilarious bad taste musical you laugh your socks off as things go from bad to wurst.
Nottingham Operatic Society’s effervescent production of The Producers directed and choreographed by Lisa Lee is supremely professional, gloriously done and visually outstanding. The sets and costumes are just brilliant.Stephen Williams (musical director) and his orchestra are upbeat and note perfect. From the second that the usherettes (Cathy Hyde and Amanda Dixon-Smith) start to sing of the Broadway flop of Funny Boy you know we are in the confident musical hands of Nottingham Operatic Society.
Simon Theobald shines with supreme confidence in his demanding lead comedy role of former King of Broadway Max Bialystock and his interpretation of the patter song “Betrayed” is professionally executed as is his exuberant performance as a whole. Other notables in this play full of deliberate stereotypes are Ian Pottage as the comical Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind who threatens to burst out of his lederhosen any second whilst strutting around the stage praising Adolf ‘Elizabeth’ Hitler. Pottage seems to having huge fun in a role that needs to played big and bonkers. And he does!
On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum we have a lovely comical performance from actor Mark Coffy-Bainbridge as downtrodden neurotic Leo Bloom, the accountant who dreams of being a Broadway producer. Coffy-Bainbridge has an understated warm charm, a fine singing voice and great presence on stage. His romantic partner Swedish beauty Ulla is portrayed with just the right mix of sweetly sexy, sassy style and just a bit nuts personality by the very watchable Amanda Bruce.
Only Mel Brooks could come up with a fictional play title ‘Springtime for Hitler: A Gay romp for Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden‘ and base the humour of the show on ridiculous accents, caricatures of homosexuals and Nazis and utilise many a show business in joke. The show features more than a dozen great musical numbers that are all done with style and gusto by the Nottingham Operatic cast. The choreography of the lustful grannies is inspirational as is the mirroring of a certain symbol in the song Springtime For Hitler.
Dan Armstrong is wonderfully OTT as Roger De Bris and comes into his own when fate casts him as Hitler in the show within the show. Jarod Makin is terrifically camp as Roger De Bris’s common-law assistant Carmen Ghia yet has a lightness of characterisation that has echoes of Niles in the US comedy Frasier. Percy the pigeon is astonishing in his small but significant role. He is certainly one to watch out for in future stage productions. He can say more with a flick of wing than some professionals. We hope he will not be tempted to fly off to West End stardom just yet.
The whole Nottingham Operatic Society cast appear to revel in this most lively of shows and each musical and comedy set brings out big applause and whoops of joy from the clearly delighted audience. It has some terrifically accomplished comic performances and great singing from the principles and chorus. If you like your musical comedy broad, naughty and full of the glitz of showbiz then this blaster of a show is not one to miss!
The Producers plays at Nottingham Theatre Royal until 25- 29 October.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe