Somers shines and ‘Producers’ an energetic hit

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From left, Daryl Somers, Demi Smith and Jason Bensen in “The Producers”. Photo: Janelle McMenamin

Musical theatre / “The Producers”, directed by Rachael Beck. At Gungahlin Theatre until October 26. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

OVER the past few years Dramatic Productions has been attracting audiences to the Gungahlin Theatre with inventive productions of rarely seen musicals, among them, “Into the Woods”, “Catch Me If You Can” and “Heathers”. This spirited production of the Mel Brooks musical “The Producers” is perhaps its best yet.

A wicked satire of one of America’s most beloved institutions, the Broadway musical, “The Producers” follows the travails of failed Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, who with his protégé Leo Bloom, decide to produce the worst show on Broadway, in a misguided attempt to make a fortune. 

The scheme fails when the show unaccountably becomes a hit. Brooks’ script is sly, vulgar, subversive and deliciously funny, packed with hilarious characters and tuneful songs. 

Directing her first musical, Rachael Beck draws on her own extensive performing career in musical theatre to create an astutely cast, effervescent and thoroughly entertaining production which, despite the limited staging facilities of the Gungahlin Theatre, still manages to achieve a professional gloss.

Attracting television personality Daryl Somers to the role of the unscrupulous Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, was a masterstroke. In addition to his fame as a television personality, Somers is an experienced stage performer and revels in this opportunity to create a thoroughly repulsive, but undeniably lovable character. 

He has an unexpectedly fine singing voice and his well-honed comedic shtick is a joy throughout.

Inspired casting among local performers has produced some memorable characterisations. Among them, matching Somers every step of the way, Jason Bensen, lights up the stage with a very funny, excellently sung and danced turn as Bialystock’s gormless, but game, apprentice producer, Leo Bloom.

Paul Sweeney is a riot as Roger De Bris, the worst producer on Broadway, and Jake Fraser steals every scene he’s in as De Bris’s prissy “common-law assistant”. Demi Smith as the Swedish bombshell, Ulla, provides plenty of sex-appeal with her solo “When You’ve Got it, Flaunt It”. 

Zack Drury and his scene-stealing pigeons, as the mad German playwright, Franz Liekind, and David Cannell as Bloom’s boss-from-hell, Mr Marks, both provide comedy highlights. 

Although the uncluttered set design, with the help of some inventive scene changes, worked well, additional glitz is needed to make the otherwise well-staged “Springtime for Hitler” number convincing as a Broadway show-stopper. 

The energetic ensemble, colourfully costumed by Susan Cooper, tackle Rachel Thornton’s inventive choreography, which at one stage includes a revolving swastika, with enthusiasm and flair, and musical director and conductor, Ewan, with his very fine orchestra successfully captures the Broadway sound. All of which makes this a memorable, “must see” production.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Saw this yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Was a shame there was only a smallish crowd in attendance – hopefully numbers build up in time. Somers in particular was superb, but all in all it was a great production of a criminally underrated musical.

    • “Criminally underrated”? This ran for years on Broadway, received every award imaginable, and was made into a (second) film. How is it “underrated”?!

      • Its a personal opinion – geez! I just think its a musical that you don’t often here mentioned in the same conversations as the ‘biggest name’ musicals, which I think is should. That is all.

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