Little Broadway came to Adelaide last night, for the opening night of Marie Clark Musical Theatre’s production of The Producers.
This classic, comedy musical, is the story of failing Broadway producer, Max Bialystock (Sam Davy), whose new accountant, Leopold “Leo” Bloom (Kristian Latella), hatch a plot to produce a bad show that will close after one night, enabling them to escape with the remainder of the funds raised for the production. Unfortunately for them, it becomes a hit, and lands them in hot water.
The Arts Theatre was brought to life from the opening moments, as the band, conducted by Musical Director, Serena Cann, produced a stellar foundation for the show, with plenty of pomp, pluck, and pathos, as needed.
Creative frugality manifested a set with just enough to create each scene, although the home of Roger De Bris (Barry Hill) was a standout, complete with sweeping staircase and gold statuette.
Another element that marked this as a polished production was the costuming. Casey Von Einem should be rightfully proud of the array of glitzy and superbly-caricatured costumes she wrangled to give this show a touch of magic.
Across the board, the performances were consistent, with each actor and member of the ensemble rising to their occasions, not only in business and interactions (credit to director, Matt Smith) but also and especially in the dance pieces, in which Broadway-scale numbers were adapted to fit and fill The Arts stage (credit to choreographer, Mike Lapot).
Sam Davy’s performance was reminiscent of Rex Harrison; the character was well drawn, the songs were beautifully emoted and timed, even though there were sections of flatness. That said, there were only a few moments throughout the night when that jarred, for the rest of the show, Davy harrumphed, bellowed, and delivered the sly, heart-on-his-sleeve cheekiness one expects from the “King of Broadway”.
Kristian Latella gave a rewarding performance of the quivering accountant with unfulfilled and terrifying ambition. His bashful demeanour followed a beautiful arc from fear-wracked bean counter to the passion-led husband of Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson (Lucy Trewin). His voice was as sweet and smooth as honey in parts in perfect counterpoint to Davy’s.
Trewin held her own as Ulla and perfectly nailed her opening number (When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It!), all the while endearing herself to the audience. As did Barry Hill in his hilariously uber-camp portrayal of Roger De Bris. Aided by his assistant, Carmen Ghia (Ben Todd), Hill exuded self-reverence and flamboyance, and delivered his songs with crisp precision and pride.
The “writer” of Springtime For Hitler (the title song from the fictititious musical in the show), Franz Liebkind, is played by Gus Smith, who not only mastered the comic-timing required of his faux-German numbers, but his voice was a joy to behold.
There was angelic chorus work by “the old ladies”, adding syrup, sugar, and power to many numbers and carrying Davy’s exclamatory blustering to the heavens. And it would be remiss not to mention Sash Elliot from the ensemble. While the ensemble was immaculate all night, there was a special presence and zest in Elliot’s various performances that were captivating and reliably “on” at 120% at all times. It’s also a legal requirement to note that ensemble member and set sponsor, Lance Jones, was typecast as a judge, mirroring his day job as a law professor and barrister – proving that art does imitate life!
Stage Manager, Anthea Brown, managed to oversee a busy night of set changes, ably dealing with a few technical snafus with curtains with great aplomb, very much in the show-must-go-on style spruiked by Bialystock & Bloom.
Spend a couple of hours with the German Ethel Merman and friends and let The Producers invade and occupy your soul with joy in the key of camp!
The Producers, until July 24, The Arts Theatre, Marie Clark Musical Theatre.