Monday, October 14, 2019

THE PRODUCERS - Dramatic Productions

Jason Benson (Leo Bloom) - Daryl Somers (Max Bialystock) 

Directed by Rachael Beck – Musical Direction by Ewan
Choreographed by Rachel Thornton – Costumes designed by Susan Cooper
Presented by Dramatic Productions

Gungahlin Theatre October 11th to 26th  2019
Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Over the past few years Dramatic Productions have been attracting audiences to the Gungahlin Theatre with inventive productions of rarely seen musicals, among them, “Into the Woods”, “Catch Me If You Can” and “Heathers”. This spirited production of the Mel Brooks musical “The Producers” is perhaps its best yet.

A wicked satire of one of America’s most beloved institutions, “The Producers” follows the travails of failed Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, ,who together with his protégé Leo Bloom, decide to produce the worst show on Broadway, in a misguided  attempt to make a fortune. The scheme fails when the show unaccountably becomes a hit. Brook’s script is sly, vulgar, subversive and deliciously funny, packed with hilarious characters and tuneful songs.

Demi Smith (Ulla) - Daryl Somers (Max Bialystock) - Jason Benson (Leo Bloom) 

Directing her first musical, Rachael Beck draws on her own extensive performing career in musical theatre to create an astutely cast, effervescent and thoroughly entertaining production which, despite the limited staging facilities of the Gungahlin Theatre, still manages to achieve a professional gloss.

Attracting television personality, Daryl Somers, to the role of the unscrupulous Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, was a master stroke. In addition to his fame as a television personality, Somers is an experienced stage performer, and revels in this opportunity to create a thoroughly repulsive, but undeniably lovable character. He has an unexpectedly fine singing voice, and his well-honed comedic shtick is a joy throughout.

Inspired casting among local performers has produced some memorable characterisations. Among them, matching Somers every step of the way,  Jason Bensen, lights up the stage with a very  funny, excellently sung and danced turn as Bialystock’s gormless,  but game, apprentice producer, Leo Bloom.

Paul Sweeney is a riot as Roger De Bris, the worst producer on Broadway, and Jake Fraser steals every scene he’s in as De Bris’s prissy “common-law assistant. Demi Smith as the Swedish bombshell, Ulla, provides plenty of sex-appeal with her solo “When You’ve Got it, Flaunt It”.  
Zack Drury and his scene-stealing pigeons, as the mad German playwright, Franz Lie kind, and David Cannell as Bloom’s boss-from-hell, Mr. Marks, both provide comedy highlights.

Although the uncluttered set design, with the help of some inventive scene changes, worked well,  additional glitz is needed to make the otherwise well-staged  “Springtime For Hitler” number convincing as a Broadway show-stopper.

Demi Smith (Ulla) centre - Jason Bensen (Leo Bloom) and Old Ladies ensemble

The energetic ensemble, colourfully costumed by Susan Cooper, tackle Rachel Thornton’s inventive choreography, which at one stage includes a revolving swastika, with enthusiasm and flair, and Musical Director and conductor, Ewan,  with his  very fine orchestra successfully captures the Broadway sound.  All of which makes this a memorable, “must see” production.

                                            Photos by Janelle McMenamin

This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 12th October 2019