Political Incorrectness Unleashed at Blackpool

14/04/2016

Mel Brooks, The Producers: Blackpool Operatic Players, Grand Theatre, Blackpool. 13.4.2016. (MC)

Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan – Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks – Original direction and choreography by Susan Stroman – By special arrangement with StudioCanal

Cast included:

Max Bialystock: Howard G Raw
Leo Bloom: Neil Townsend
Roger De Bris: Nigel Taylor
Carmen Ghia: Robert Baldock
Ulla: Cheryl Dakin
Franz Liebkind: Derek Winward
Hold me Touch Me: Karen Gray-Thornton

Production:

Director: Emma Norman
Choreography: Sarah Cosgrove
Musical Director: Helen Harrison
Costumes: Charades Theatrical Costumes
Scenery: Scenic Projects Ltd.

You certainly know where you stand with Mel Brooks’s Tony winning comedy musical The Producers. Subtlety, well there is none, political correctness nil, bad taste jokes lots, sexual, gender and nationality stereotyping by the bucket load. Brooks gives it to the audience straight in the face but it’s none the worse for that. Entertainment is the name of the game here and Brooks has provided a wonderful vehicle for performers and audiences to enjoy themselves royally.

Premièred at Broadway in 2001 Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan adapted The Producers musical from Brooks’ 1968 film of the same name with Brooks providing both the music and lyrics. Basically Max and Leo’s hilarious scheme to make money by producing a Broadway flop with the outrageous musical ‘Springtime for Hitler’ backfires. I’m not sure how Brooks got away with much of the irreverent content back in the late 60s but I’m glad he did.

Using a predominantly New York cityscape, featuring the colourful outside of the Shubert Theatre as a backdrop, and Max’s office the sets and dazzling costumes were quite magnificent matched only by the quality of the performances. Stealing the show for his wholehearted comic acting and splendid timing is Howard G Raw in the demanding role of irrepressible, down at heels Broadway producer Max Bialystock who has endured one flop after another. Neil Townsend communicates decisively the hesitant and rather timid character Leo Bloom the accountant who surprisingly gets together with the glamorous Ulla. Air-headed Swedish wannabe Ulla is perceptively played by the high-kicking, long-legged Cheryl Dakin giving a striking all-round performance.

Nigel Taylor excels in the role of flamboyant cross-dressing Roger De Bris, the inept stage director. Taylor throws himself into the slapstick role for all he is worth and the production reaps the rewards. Dressed all in black, Roger’s partner Carmen Ghia played by Robert Baldock lays on the camp for all he is worth. Franz Liebkind writer of the world’s worst musical Springtime For Hitler is hilariously played by Derek Winward. Wearing a wacky combination of lederhosen together with steel helmet and Nazi swastika armband Winward clearly relishes the clowning. Hilarious too are both the colourful men’s troupe who managed to out camp the Village People for their flamboyant on-stage costumes and the chorus of grey haired, randy old ladies.

Buying totally into the often slapstick fun and games the supporting cast do a sterling job and Sarah Cosgrove’s smartly achievable choreography adds to the success of the production. From the pit enthusiastic musical director Helen Harrison doesn’t just beat time she leads and inspires with real involvement and her theatre band did her proud. In the magnificent surroundings of the renowned Grand Theatre, Blackpool hats off to talented director Emma Norman and her production team for bringing everything together so marvellously.

Blackpool Operatic Players take another bow. I’m not sure musical productions get any better than this for sheer entertainment. Tips required please for helping me get the comedy song Springtime For Hitler out my head.

Michael Cookson

 

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