The Producers reviews

The best of bad taste
Sally Hall, Yorkshire Evening Post
14 May 2009

It takes a big dollop if chutzpah for an amateur society to deliberately stage a bad taste flop of mammoth proportions, complete with excruciating songs, cringeworthy dancing and acting that's camper than a whole field of tents.

But Leeds Amateur Operatic Society rises to the challenge with aplomb – and in a case of art imitating art, they transform what could have been a surefire bomb into a golden nugget of musical theatre.

In ‘The Producers’, LAOS found a perfect theatrical vehicle. This is a musical that’s not afraid to laugh at itself; a show which is all about making merry as a car crash on stage unfolds. As such, it allows the players to relax and enjoy themselves. The result is a stunningly professional production which is highly enjoyable throughout.

It’s a brave choice to follow in the footsteps of the 2001 Broadway production of the 2001 Broadway production starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane (which took $3 million within a few days of opening). But the boldness has paid off here, with astute casting ensuring that each player inhabits their role with natural star quality.

The leads are both excellent, with Alex Hogg making Leo Bloom as lovable as a snivelling, bent accountant could possibly be. Peter Whitley is an oily, grasping, but always entertaining Max Bialystock, brining a wonderful insouciance to the ass-grabbing requirements of the role.

Other stand-outs are Kay Mallinson, a luscious Ulla whose go-on-forever legs definitely turn up the heat, and Joe Mellor, whose incredibly camp turn as Carmen channels every episode ever made of ‘Will and Grace’, a season or two of ‘Are You Being Served’ and even a hint of ‘Supermarket Sweep’ to result in a commanding performance which really captures audience attention. Mention must also be made of the set. If there were a few clunky transfers on the night, that is itself a reflection of the highly ambitious scale of the scenery, which included a brilliant rooftop scene complete with coo-ing pigeon cage, and a Broadway musical set studded with lights. Production values were polished and professional, with some really imaginative touches bringing the show to life.

If you've seen the film of ‘The Producers’, you’ll love this show. And if you haven’t you'll still love it. As long as you don't mind a production of spectacular bad taste, full of OTT stereotypes, with some terrible songs. But then, that’s the whole point.

Being one of the first…
Val Pennett, Ilkley Gazette
14 May 2009

Being one of the first amateur operatic societies to perform The Producers in the UK, and having the honour of putting on the show at The Playhouse with this wonderful cast, this top-notch society could hardly fail.

A fine orchestra led by Musical Director Jim Lunt sets a cracking pace in the huge production numbers and this fast-paced, sometimes play-like show keeps the audience interested throughout. Based on the 1968 film the musical opened in New York in 2001 and in London in 2004 and ran for 2 years.

The story revolves around Max, no longer the successful producer he was. His new accountant Leo believes they can make more money by producing a 'flop' so they look for the worst possible book and performers. They come up with 'Springtime for Hitler' - a gay romp with Adolf and Eva, written by Franz Liebkind and which, of course, turns out to be a huge success.

The Producers is really a spoof show and one has to take it as such. But I do remember at the time of its arrival in London reading journalistic comments regarding its content and I understand this. I didn't find the Hitler salutes or the goose-stepping number pleasant to watch.

However, musically it is interesting and varied, the choreography stunning. The stage set is one of the largest and most complicated the society has ever used, and now Homburgs, the costumiers of Leeds have closed, most of the costumes had to come from the Isle of Wight with help from local suppliers. In spite of the difficulties, both set and costumes were very effective.

There are only 6 main principals and plenty of minor roles, all excellent. The partnership of Peter Whitley as Max and Alex Hogg as the endearing accountant Leo, was for me inspirational. Peter revelled in this flamboyant and difficult role. Alex was so different in his portrayal of the shy, introverted Leo. Together they have such a rapport. Every emotion is wrapped up in their friendship.

Kay Mallinson as Ulla the sexy floosy was a joy too. A very talented dancer and actress. Playing the worst director on Broadway, needed if the play was to be a flop, Phil Hopkins as Roger the cross-dressing extrovert, showed excellent comedy timing. So too did Joe Mellor as Carmen Ghia. The neo-Nazi playwright Franz, a completely over-the-top character, was played by Richard Blackburn. His strong German accent and strident attitude caused more mayhem.

This is a brilliantly performed show, the musical numbers are full of life and vitality and the quality of the dancing and singing exceptional. Every year I admire more and more the talent and attention to detail of Louise Denison, director/choreographer. Movement for principals and company alike never flags. It is my privilege to have worked with her and I shall look forward to The King and I which Leeds Amateurs are to perform at the Grand Theatre in November with the same production team.

Having never seen The Producers before…
Anna Davies, Online
14 May 2009

Having never seen The Producers before, in either stage or film, I really wasn't sure what to expect when I went to see Leeds Amateurs take it on. It is so different to anything they have done before but the professionalism and versatility shone through. As usual Leeds Amateur Operatic Society continue to blur the line between amateur and professional with an outstanding and entertaining performance. To see Fagin from Oliver playing Roger De Bris showed versatility to its maximum.

With the relaxed atmosphere of the playhouse the audience settled easily into the slapstick humour and giggles soon spread throughout. With key moments including the YMCA conga and saluting doves singing the German national anthem, not to mention the zimmer frame grannies you will be sure of a comical evening.

Peter Whitley stole the show engaging the audience with his quick quips as Max Bialystock and left you wanting more. His portrayal of the character felt natural and comfortable, completely encasing you in the bizarre plot. His interaction and fatherly approach to Alex Hogg, playing Leo Bloom, proved to be wonderfully humorous. Alex Hogg played the anxious Leo very well enticing the hearts of the audience with his ever appearing blue blanket and the legs and wiggles of Kay Mallinson as Ulla fuelled the lead pair with many a comedy moment. The main trio were joined by Richard Blackburn as Franz Liebkind with his rendition of Old Bavaria and Haben Sie Gehort Das Deutsche Band continuing the smile throughout. The stand out laughs however went to Max or Joe Mellor who was playing Carmen. The natural campness was a joy to watch and the giggles never stopped.

The choreography was professionally executed with some clever zimmer frame work and the ending silhouette rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable show. In the spirit of this show, this is definitely not a flop – it's a hit! So if you have a spare night this week and want a relaxing evening of satirical musical comedy you really couldn'’t do any better than this.

The Producers
Katrina Knights Wharfedale and Airedale Observer
14 May 2009

Leeds theatre group LAOS once again did not fail to impress with their production of The Producers, their bright, bubbly, Broadway-esque Mel Brooks musical.

The Producers revolves around a rather pathetic Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, played by Peter Whitley, who delivered his usual yet unique over-the-top style of acting that this play required, and a bumbling accountant/aspiring producer, Leo Bloom, played by Alex Hogg who played a good counter to Peter Whitley.

Together they come up with the rather hair-brained scheme that producing a flop rather than a hit musical could make them more money – as the taxmen wouldn’t be looking.

So they set out to find the worst musical ever written, Springtime for Hitler – a gay romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden. Having danced and pledged allegiance to the Reich with zany neo-Nazi/playwright/leading man Franz Liebkind, they hire the worst director, Roger de Bris, and his exceptionally camp and hilariously funny partner Carmen (Joe Mellor). Springtime hits Broadway but instead of the flop intended, it gets such rave reviews that the producers Bialystock and Bloom end up in prison where another hit soon follows.

A really good ensemble show, I don't think that I have ever watched so many talented comedic actors in one show. This was as good as any professional show. From spectacular sets to toetapping dance routines, The Producers has it all. I loved it, and from the smiles all around me as the audience was leaving, so did everyone else.

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