The Producers is another ‘triumph’ at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage
PUBLISHED: 16:01 01 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:40 04 September 2017
Mel Brooks musical The Producers has opened at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage and is garnering great reviews from members of the audience. Arts editor Alan Davies went along to last night’s gala performance.
There’s a delicious irony about The Producers, which opened in Stevenage this week.
Max Bialystock, the central character in Mel Brooks’ musical masterpiece, produces flop after Broadway flop.
Whereas the exact opposite could be said of Gordon Craig Theatre’s Catherine Lomax and her creative team.
They have brought West End quality productions to the Hertfordshire stage in recent years – and The Producers is their latest smash hit.
Following last summer’s memorable production of Singin’ in the Rain, the funny Bedroom Farce and the sell-out Easter show Rapunzel, The Producers is another triumph, much like the gloriously offensive ‘Springtime for Hitler’, the very unPC musical within a musical at the heart of the production.
The sets looks fantastic, as do the showgirl costumes, while the choreography of Khiley Williams and Philip Joel is stunning. Look out for the tap-dancing old ladies with walking frames!
But the real strength of the Gordon Craig’s production is in the casting, which is spot-on.
Given the short two-week rehearsal period, Paul Easom and Ryan Owen are both superb in the roles of chief protagonists Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom.
Having impressed earlier this year as Benedict in Rapunzel, Ryan is a revelation as the mousy, neurotic accountant who ‘Blooms’ into a Broadway producer and bags a beautiful wife after teaming up with Max.
Former Hollyoaks star and Strictly Come Dancing semi-finalist Ali Bastian vamps it up as Ulla, a sexy Swedish secretary-slash-receptionist and “jiggly” dancer.
Oliver Stanley is hilarious as swastika-wearing, pigeon-keeping Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind, who pens Springtime for Hitler – “the worst play ever written”. His performing pigeons will have you in stitches.
However, Liebkind’s play, a loving musical tribute to his idol Adolf Hitler – “Not many people know it, but the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer” – is a surprise satirical hit on Broadway, much to the dismay of Max and Leo, as they were banking on it being a huge flop as part of their money-making scam.
Daniel Page it suitably camp as the flamboyantly gay cross-dressing theatre director Roger Elizabeth DeBris, who ends up playing Hitler on stage after Liebkind literally breaks a leg on opening night.
But it is Philip Joel who threatens to steal the show whenever he flounces on stage as Roger’s assistant, Carmen Ghia.
The rest of the ensemble, including Julie Stark, Samantha Noel, Joseph Connor, Adam Shorey and James Donovan from the GCT’s recent touring production of Rapunzel The Musical, all play their part in an entertaining musical well worth catching before it closes.
Overheard leaving the auditorium at the end of the show was one woman saying she wanted to see it again.
Job done for executive producer and director Catherine Lomax and the rest of the company.
• The Producers runs at the Gordon Craig Theatre until Saturday, September 9. The show is not suitable for a young audience.
For tickets, visit www.gordon-craig.co.uk or call the box office on 01438 363200.
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