The Production Company has set a very high standard for their 2012 presentations, gathering a sensational cast for the deliriously funny musical comedy The Producers.
Mel Brooks’ songs and script, co-written by Thomas Meehan (Annie), more than stand up to the scrutiny of the concert-style staging. The score, an homage to the golden age of Broadway, sparkles in a sterling rendition by the 23-piece Orchestra Victoria under the strict baton of Vanessa Scammell.
The witty wordplay, showbiz in-jokes and shamelessly crass humour are laugh-out-loud funny, with comic performances reaching levels of physicality and nuance that belie the relatively short rehearsal period. Directors Andrew Hallsworth and Dean Bryant turn the lack of full-sized sets to an advantage by having the action literally dance from scene to scene, creating a slick, snappy production.
The pace is supported by Adam Gardnir’s multi-levelled set, featuring the glowing lights of Broadway. A cavalcade of costumes, by Kim Bishop and Paris (Stephen Merry), enhances the visual pageantry immensely.
The phenomenal success of 2001’s The Producers ushered in a new wave of musical comedies, such as Hairspray, Avenue Q, Urinetown, The Drowsy Chaperone and Rock of Ages, and the supremely talented cast have benefited from experience in Australian seasons of these shows.
Wayne Scott Kermond and Brent Hill are inspired choices to play the manic lead duo Bialystock and Bloom, a pair of producers who are attempting to stage a flop. Rarely off stage, the two turn in energetic, endearing performances that draw on their full range of theatrical skills. Kermond’s comic delivery is spot on, connecting with the audience and nailing every laugh. Hill is adorably wide-eyed and boyish, and sings beautifully.
Act one builds as the duo collect a motley set of deluded artists guaranteed to ruin Springtime for Hitler. Trevor Ashley is a jolly, larger than life Franz Liebkind. Mitchell Butel is reliably hysterical as deranged director Roger De Bris. Masculine Rohan Browne is a hoot as Roger’s devoted common-law assistant Carmen Ghia. Christie Whelan-Browne is a delightfully daffy knockout as aspiring actress Ulla.
Adding to the pleasure is the hard working ensemble, who play a multitude of roles and effortlessly perform Hallsworth’s clever choreography.
Photos: Jeff Busby
Written for 15 July 2012 Sunday Herald Sun.