Hild Bede Theatre present an evening full of Broadway inspired laughs, following the story of two producers’ scheme to make a fast buck by putting on a Broadway flop. Whilst not the most polished musical in Durham, it makes up for what it lacks in overall production quality with some stellar performances from DST regulars Joe McWilliam (Leo Bloom), Charlie Keable (Roger Debris) and Will Emery (Carmen).
It was great to hear Alex Bromwich’s (Musical Director) pit band start the overture with such confidence to capture the audience’s attention; with a little more care for tuning and intonation it could be said that the show started perfectly. A particular mention should go to Toby Cowling, who really brought the overture alive with his tuned percussion.
Bróccán Tyzack-Carlin (Max Bialystock) and Joe McWilliam’s double act lead the cast superbly, performing with great chemistry and dynamically building the connection between the two characters, showing a true friendship blossom. Bróccán convincingly plays the swindling, confident Max, the struggle to maintain vocal clarity throughout his performance notwithstanding. In contrast, Joe never misses a note – providing a vocally diverse performance to show off his fine voice, though not quite achieving the same level of characterisation as Bróccán. The Tech crew did a fantastic job, beautifully allowing the duo to fulfil their combined wish of seeing their names up in lights.
The producers are not the show’s only double act, with Charlie and Will delivering a faultless performance drawing us into their hedonistic world of show business and its associated egos. Their previous big stage experience shines through adding energy and excitement whenever they appear.
The onstage comedy throughout the production left the audience in stitches: from the onstage violin, Louise Webster’s old lady, Elliot Mather’s audition, to the comedic highlight – Andrew Shire’s Franz Liebkind. Andrew delivered all the elements of crazy you would hope to see from a Nazi in hiding, his attempts at the big numbers ‘Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop’ and ‘Haben Sie gehört das Deutsche band?’ amused the audience thanks to his stage craft and facial expressions even if he lacked the full vocal ability to truly convince the audience.
The cast’s commitment to a variety of different accents successfully represents the diversity of New York City, transporting the audience to the heart of the city for the duration of the performance.
As a directing debut, Zephy Losey triumphed. Her innovative staging – using the space both in front of the curtain and to the side of Caedmon Hall, allowing time to manage the stage changes, was inspired. She was blessed with an experienced Choreography team who demonstrated a great range of dance mediums that captivated the audience and enhanced the story. Worthy of a mention is the tap sequence in the second act, as well as the revolving swastika of dancers.
You can’t see this show and leave without remarking on the quality of the costume design, Kitty Briggs should be commended for her ability to cross-dress so many men, as well as providing countless costume changes for a busy cast. One of her dresses is quite literally the shining star of the show, glistening in the spotlight.
Overall, despite a few musical balance issues and vocal blips, The Producers is fantastically entertaining – you are guaranteed to come away with a smile on your face and your sides splitting!