Adapted from Brooks’ 1968 film of the same name, The Producers is an extraordinary musical. Set in New York in 1959, the one-time ‘King of Broadway’, Max Bialystock, sees his latest show ‘Funny Boy’ close after just one night. Down and out, dependent on playing the aging lothario to wealthy but very elderly spinsters and widows, Max is thrown a lifeline back to success and the high life in the unlikely form of timorous accountant, Leo Bloom. Bloom discovers that a flop show can make more money than a hit, and so the two set out to lie, cheat and schmooze their way to a million bucks by staging a sure-fire Broadway flop – the worst taste musical ever written: ‘Springtime For Hitler’. The rest is showbiz history. Bursting with laugh-out-loud jokes and outrageously funny musical numbers, The Producers is pure, unadulterated joy.
Usherettes / band singers
Tanya Alizai, Becka Blanchard
Lead tenor storm trooper
The myriad remaining parts (too many to list) are valiantly played by the rest of the ensemble:
Chris Argles, Kimberley Argles, Luke Argles, Elena Eleftheriadou, Dawn Ford, Mikyla Hallford, Steve Jacobs, Carmen Lennox, Rosie Martin, Hannah Montgomery, Steve North, Penny Payne, Barry Ring, Emma Rose, Rosa Ruggieri, Indianna Scorziello, and Joe Wilson
Glockenspiel, maracas, and other strange things
Kath Dawes, Dawn Ford, Sheila Bird, Michelle Tomas, Lynda Hall, Jeannie Lewis, Allyson Grew.
Scenery design and construction
Mike Brown, Steve Harris, Andy Hall, Keith Lewis, Chris Argles, Steve North.
Painting, glueing and general titivation
Annie Kennedy, Guy Harries-Rees, Barry Ring, Joe Wilson, Ryan Newby, Peter Bird, Connor Nestor, Aldo Piscina, Luke Argles, Elena Eleftheriadou, Steve Jacobs, Carmen Lennox, and Penny Payne.
Stage management and crew
Steve Harris, Andy Hall, Guy Harries-Rees, Annie Kennedy, Emma Rose.
Pigeon coop and swing engineered by Keith Lewis
Props, ephemera and publicity
Stage lighting design
Stage lighting operation
Kath Dawes, Allison Grew
Review by John Gass, for The Croydon Citizen.
Mel Brooks’s film The Producers has become a classic and is a personal favourite, so I have to admit to some doubts as to whether Theatre Workshop Coulsdon (TWC), an amateur dramatic group, could manage to successfully stage such a large, over-the-top production. I needn’t have worried! As soon as I saw that the music was to be played live, and read in the programme that the wardrobe department had managed to create one hundred and twenty costumes, I realised that this was going to be something out of the ordinary. The ethos of TWC is interesting, and I think it’s worth quoting what its members say about themselves on their website: “Original or not, all our productions tend towards the bold, exuberant, and generally larger than life. We don’t do ‘staple’ amateur dramatic fare: farces, whodunnits, schmaltzy musicals, Stoppards and Ayckbourns. So many amateur companies endlessly recycle this same fare – we prefer a different approach.” This is something I find refreshing and intriguing, so I’ve just signed-up for news of future productions. You can do the same by emailing the TWC box-office
Funny, outrageous and totally over-the-top
As a stage show, The Producers has pedigree. Mel Brooks took it to Broadway in 2001, where it won twelve Tony awards and ran for more than 2,500 performances. And it shows: the script is spot-on and the songs are wonderfully catchy – something which some recent musicals have sadly failed to deliver. Talking of the songs, the programme, somewhat self-deprecatingly, states “We aren’t dancers. We aren’t singers”. Well, you got that wrong! The singing, both individually and as an ensemble, was strong and note-perfect, and the dancing was confident and delivered with pizzazz. Full marks to musical director, Mark Taylor, and choreographer, Emma Rose! The director, Richard Lloyd, has done a great job, not only of directing the show, but also of having cast the parts so well. Quite how a relatively small company managed to find actors to fit each role so perfectly, I don’t know but, somehow it did, leaving me in an invidious position when it comes to singling out individuals for praise.
Nothing was remotely amateur about these dramatics
The story centres around a faded Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, played with conviction and total believability by Paul Ford, and Leo Bloom, a timid and easily manipulated accountant, played by Peter Bird, who effortlessly manages the challenging evolution the role demands. Together, Bialystock and Bloom hatch a scheme to get rich – by staging a Broadway flop! After much searching, they discover the script for ‘Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden’, written by pigeon-obsessed Nazi sympathiser Franz Liebkind, delivered with all the required gusto and goose-stepping by Mike Brown. What follows is funny, outrageous and totally over-the-top; political correctness has definitely been given the evening off! Two more actors who delivered stand-out performances were Neil Grew, who plays outrageously camp producer Roger DeBris with total, well-placed confidence, and Lucy-Ann Martin in the role of Swedish sex-bomb Ulla (aka Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson!), who gave us a performance delivered with style and panache.
From beginning to end, this was a joyous evening
Another thing that impressed me was the absolute professionalism of the show – nothing was remotely amateur about these dramatics – from the realisation of the ambitious sets, the accomplished and exuberant musicians and band singers, to each and every one of the large cast, all of whom acted their socks off, no matter how large or small their part. From beginning to end, this was a joyous evening and I can’t remember the last time a show made me laugh so much. Clearly, the audience was similarly infected by the energy and humour and there was loads of spontaneous laughter and a lot of well-deserved applause for the singers. The front of house team also deserves a mention: I was warmly welcomed and there was a range of drinks available, including hot mulled wine. Tubs of local, hand-made ice-cream were on sale in the interval and, just for good measure, on the way out I was offered a free mince pie. So ignore the frosty evenings and get yourself down to Coulsdon Community Centre for a warming, fun-packed, memorable evening.