first night

The Producers

Harry Twining goes to see a flop in the making with Hild Bede Theatre's The Producers.


The Producers focuses on the scheme of its eponymous heroes to make more cash from a deliberate flop than a hit. Regardless of how this turns out, what Hilde Bede Theatre have created can only be described as the latter.

From the opening number to the final curtain, the entire cast give off a vibrant energy, truly capturing the power and joy of a real Broadway production. This was especially impressive given that the size of the Caedmon Hall stage and sparse set sometimes left it feeling slightly empty between dance numbers, particularly falling short of showing the chaotic mess of Max Bialystocks office. However, the lively chemistry of Bróccán Tyzack-Carlin as Bialystock and Joe McWilliam as Leo Bloom continually kept the audiences rapt attention despite this slight drawback.

Although Tyzack-Carlin lacked nuance in the plays more subtle moments, he successfully pulled of Bialystocks sleazy charm with his winning smiles and perfectly judged deadpan one-liners. This was also well maintained throughout his impressive singing without a single dip in fervour, despite the occasional slip in accent. Joe McWilliam portrayed the adorable agitation of Leo Bloom through perfectly controlled posture, gait and stuttering, whilst still having an energetic and solid stage presence, avoiding becoming annoying or repetitive. The subtlety of his development from a nervous accountant to a confident producer was also applaudable, seen mainly through songs which showed off McWilliams fantastic voice. However, it still seemed that both Tyzack-Carlin and McWilliams were mainly imitating the original Broadway cast rather than forming their own interpretations, most clear from the inflection similarities to the original in many of the jokes. Regardless, the audience clearly enjoyed them immensely, making it a minor issue at the most.

One of the highlights of the show was neo-Nazi Franz Liebkind, as played by Andrew Shires. This was not only due to the hilarity of the character itself (an obsessive Hitler fanboy with a penchant for music and dance), but also due to Shires knack for effortlessly eliciting endless gales of laughter. This was achieved through madly staring eyes and a hilariously aggressive German accent which had the audience deservedly in hysterics. As with Tyzack-Carlin, there seemed to be little variation in his character beyond this. Yet as a caricature, subtlety would only detract from Shires vast entertainment value. On the subject of subtlety, dont expect any in the shows final act when the producers show finally goes on. Instead, expect to cry with laughter at what is surely one of the most offensive yet sidesplitting musical numbers ever put to stage, pulled off with aplomb aplenty and some truly impressive choreography.  

Also highly deserving of comment was Charlie Keable as Roger Debris, and Will Emery as his partner Carmen. Their outrageous campness was a joy to behold, and was only made better by Keable and Emerys effortless chemistry, complemented by the highly polished characterisations in voice and posture, shared by both actors and their fabulous entourage of scantly-clad police officers and Cherokee Indians (see the show for an explanation). Furthermore, Finola Southgate as Ulla skilfully captured the characters charm and sensuality with every movement and inflection. Coupled with a powerful singing voice, this made Southgate another of the shows many strengths.

Although there were some first-night issues, with the occasional mic or lighting failure, the shows technical side was largely impressive. Effective use of lighting was made to reflect the distinctive showbiz atmosphere, especially when used to contrast Leos dreary existence as an accountant with his aspirations of Broadway fame, set off fantastically by the lightbulbs spelling his name out  above in giant letters. It was also a wise decision to move some of the action in front of the curtain, giving a more intimate feel of pace without feeling too static. However, scene changes were a shade too long, especially as the set often felt a tad bare for the exuberance and over-the-top nature of such a show. Yet this problem was thankfully mitigated by the interluding skill of the outstanding band.

The Producers is a truly uproarious show, full of witty show-business in-jokes, brutal yet outrageously funny satire and a cast that wouldnt be out of place on a Broadway stage. Although many of the characters play on well-worn stereotypes, this only adds to the shows energetic portrayal of the world of entertainment and its play-within-a-play setting. The sheer joy of it will leave you smiling throughout, and for a good time after the curtain has fallen. 

25 February 2016

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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