The Producers, Strode Musical Theatre Company at Street

revsproducersMEL Brooks’ musical version of his cult film The Producers takes no prisoners, and those easily offended should certainly steer clear.

And SMTC, under their director Lois Harbison, do the show proud, pulling no punches as they expose the underbelly of theatrical production to the scrutiny of the audience.

Briefly the story is of Max Bialy­stock (Mark Wall), a once-successful Broadway producer whose luck has run out. His funding methods are unusual – he gets his cheques from elderly wealthy widows anxious to enjoy a few final carnal flings.

When the latest show fails miserably, and a nervy young accountant, Leo (James Newton), turns up, who’d have imagined a partnership based on friendship and book-fiddling. Then there is the drop-dead gorgeous Swede Ulla (Jess Stradling), who drifts into the office for an audition for the new show, controversially entitled Springtime for Hitler, written by a lederhosen wearing nutter who lives on a rooftop with his Nazi pigeons.

Leo and Max engage the worst director in history, the ragingly camp Roger de Bris (still, praise the Lord, dressed as the magnificent Chrysler building and played by Phil Turley), and the show opens. It is set to offend Jews, women, the Allies … anyone with a modicum of taste.  And it is a smash hit, hailed as satirical masterpiece.  The problem is that Leo and Max’s plan depends on the show failing.

Sing Sing beckons, but not before a marvellous run through of the entire show and its songs performed by Max on remand, and a sentimental ending that matches the excesses of the rest of the show.

promptproducers3The excellent cast made the most of this wonderful opportunity, and if they were hampered on the opening night by an unfamiliar hired set, that should all sort itself out during the run.

Bringing The Producers to Street was the dream of longtime theatre supporter Garth Muton, founder of SMTC, who died before he could see it realised. The production was ably taken on by Lois Harbison and her super-talented cast, every one of them adding to the hilarity of the show.

You need an outstanding Max, and Street has one in Mark Wall. Jess Stradlings Ulla was perfect, as was Andrew Smith’s marvellously mincing Carmen, and Jo McCartney’s Hug-Me-Touch-Me (the old ladies are known only by their particular demands!)

James Newton is a convincingly shy Leo, and Phil Turley’s de Bris as far removed from his Chief Bromden as it’s possible to be, with Paul Parsons as the nutty Nazi.

It’s a great show, and sparklingly done by the very talented company, choreographed in style by Harriet Durston and Sarah Neale, and with Sheila Ross in charge of the orchestra.

It is on stage in Street until Saturday.



Photographs by Peter Wintle

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