REVIEW: BAOS triumph with The Producers – at The Haymarket until Saturday
TAKE a deep breath, Basingstoke – BAOS have something invigorating in store for you!
A lot of new faces have been attracted to the society because of their decision to stage Mel Brooks’ The Producers, a bold and brave choice because it’s a satirical comic piece, the (occasionally rude) humour of which targets Nazis, homosexuals and a certain kind of old lady.
This is not your usual musical, but, given the reaction of the audience on the night I attended, many of whom occasionally gasped in shock (obviously not having seen it before), it’s a choice which has utterly delighted many local theatregoers.
Directed by Sue Sampson, BATS regular Rob Wilson joins BAOS to play the lead role of Max Bialystock, a Hollywood producer who is about to have his books examined by nervy accountant Leo Bloom (David Izzo). The latter mentions that they could make more money from a flop than a hit so, with a fun lightbulb moment, their plan is born.
They audition a busty, beautiful Swedish blonde (Hayley Cheeseworth), find Franz Liebkind’s (Martin Sampson) dire script Springtime for Hitler and hire the worst – and possibly campest – director in town (Tom McReavy), plus his assistant, Carmen (newcomer Edward Branch).
Max raises the money for the show by giving his devoted gang of grannies (especially a standout Kathy May-Miller as Hold Me, Touch Me, swinging an umbrella suggestively) what they want and they think their plan can’t go wrong… But then the show is a runaway smash hit.
The Producers depend on strong lead performances, and that’s just what Rob, David, Hayley, Martin, Tom and Edward deliver, aided by a colourful supporting cast who occasionally – Roger’s choreographer and Franz’s pigeons, I’m looking at you! – steal some limelight for themselves.
Rob’s innate likeability ensures that the somewhat crude and coarse Max is completely endearing and his performance is incredibly physical. He and David have so much to take on here on top of the norm – impeccable comic timing and an increased acting burden – that their complete success is all the more impressive.
David is constantly fun and adorable, whether going into hysterics with Leo’s blue blanket or performing an elegant tap routine accompanied by a bevy of beautiful chorus girls, musically directed by Julie Dance and choreographed by Alex Stores.
Costumes are fantastic, the frankfurter and pretzel ensembles garnering big laughs and the projected backdrop is at its best during moments such as the Springtime for Hitler spectacle, in court and in the final scenes. At other times, its impact is unavoidably diminished by the stage lighting, making the overriding blackness of the stage floor and area more noticeable.
There’ll be those who will attend this production and decide that it’s not their cup of tea. And that’s absolutely fine.
But there will be others who’ll leave the building wiping away tears of laughter, thinking that it’s the best thing they have seen in a long, long time. How fantastic to have provoked such a reaction! For many, BAOS will have blown the cobwebs away.
*Performances continue until Saturday. Tickets are available from the box office on 01256 844244.