Preview: The Producers

DULOG and the Gala: that annual match made in musical theatre heaven. Always a highlight in the DST calendar, the sheer scale of it is a spectacle in itself. And this year, after the sell-out success of West Side Story in January 2010, it’s going to be even bigger, even bolder and dare I say it, even more gay. The Producers is a musical comedy extravaganza, highly entertaining and very funny, and this production will be one to be reckoned with, where no idea is too big.

Originally released in 1968 as a film, The Producers was turned into a musical by its writer Mel Brooks and opened on Broadway in 2001, winning 12 Tony Awards. The show follows Max Bialystock (Guy Hughes) and Leo Bloom (James Hyde) as they concoct and carry out a plan to make them rich by putting on a sure-fire flop on Broadway. Along the way they hire Ulla (Kate Hunter), a Swedish actress who knows how to strut her shtuff, Roger DeBris (Ben Gittins), the campest director in Christendom and Franz Liebkind (Doug Gibbs), Hitler-phile extraordinaire. The culmination of their work is “Springtime for Hitler”, a “gay romp” that will blow the cobwebs off any preconceptions of Nazis and their leader.

And “gay romp” is just how Director Bobbi Nicholson described the production as a whole. “It’s controversial, shocking, exciting, dazzling… it is one extravagant show.” And it certainly looks to be so as rehearsals come to a close this weekend. As the 24-strong chorus take to the masking tape stage in Caedmon Hall in one of the many fabulously choreographed dance breaks, the talent on display is astounding. Choreographer Maddy Mutch has drawn on many styles here and there is something for everyone, from tap to ballet to a rather special conga line in which the male chorus certainly seem to relish exploring their sexuality!

Musical Director Andrew MacFarlane says one of the biggest challenges was getting the 25-strong band in time with the cast. “But the talent here is godly and everyone’s worked so hard. These are some of the best musicians, singers and dancers in Durham and by opening night it’s going to be… fantabulistic!” The music, written by Mel Brooks and Glen Kelly, draws inspiration from other Broadway shows and almost makes fun of itself as well as its genre. It’s that perfect Broadway-style mix of showstopping smashes, cheesy ballads and comedy caricatures. But as Bobbi and Andrew agree, the compelling storyline is a great strength of the show, and with the music on top means “you can’t really fault it.”

This year too, DULOG have something more up their sleeve. They have hired the full original West End set, giving Stage Manager Alex Tweddell’s backstage team the complex task of managing scene changes between eight locations in almost no time at all. “It’s a big step up” from the Assembly Rooms, and even from previous Gala shows – in fact the likes of it have not been seen in living (student) memory! And with the “awesome lighting” they have planned, the stage is going to be stunning.

With all this enthusiasm from the production team, the anticipation from the cast as the intensive rehearsal period comes to its peak, and when the cast, crew, band and production team are clearly having so much fun, it is very difficult not to enjoy such a marvellous display of gaiety and frivolity in the depths of winter: I truly recommend going! And as Andrew MacFarlane put it, “There will always be something special about the Gala.”

The Producers is showing in the Gala Theatre from Tuesday 18th until Saturday 22nd at 7.30pm, with matinees at 2.30pm on Wednesday and Saturday. It is advisable to book in advance and collect your tickets before the performance date – the huge popularity of last year’s show meant people had to be turned away, so don’t let it happen to you!

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