Book: Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Music and Lyrics: Mel Brooks
Directors: Lewis Butler and Nick Charters
Reviewer: Alice Fowler
Based on Mel Brooks’ much-loved movie, The Producers took Broadway by storm, galvanising audiences in the wake of 9/11. PPA’s version of this outrageous, high-camp hit plays in the shadow of another fallen edifice – Harvey Weinstein – whose downfall adds spice to this 2018 production.
Instead of Weinstein, of course, we have Max Bialystock (Jordan Harrison), the down-on-his-luck producer. Tired of seducing sex-starved old ladies to encourage them to back his shows, Bialy enlists the help of accountant Leopold Bloom. Together the pair plan a show so bad it can only fail. Then, they reason, they can take the money and run.
PPA – the Performance Preparation Academy, based in Guildford – reinvents this paeon to political incorrectness with energy and passion. Jordan Harrison brings humour and likeability to Bialystock, while Jordan Newman shines as Bloom, the meek accountant who casts off his number-crunching past and lives his dream.
Keeley-May Clarkson takes on the role of Ulla, the scantily clad Swedish secretary who steals the hearts of Bialystock and Bloom. Are such Benny Hill-style stereotypes still funny in 2018? Clarkson plays Ulla with such talent and charm, particularly in the duets with Bloom, that somehow she succeeds.
Meanwhile, there is much high-campery from Charles Camrose as director Roger de Bris and his sidekick, Carmen Ghia, exuberantly played by Jack Oliver. The cast consists of students from PPA’s musical theatre and acting for stage and screen courses – some 35 people in total – all of whom sing and dance with skill. Costumes are wonderful throughout as the ensemble transforms from pensioners with Zimmer frames to goose-stepping stormtroopers.
Just occasionally the pace feels rushed with a few favourite lines – ‘Hitler…now there was a painter! He could paint an entire apartment in one afternoon! Two coats!’ – slipping by almost unnoticed. There is so much to say, and for the audience to take in, that timing, and pauses, are crucial.
Mostly, though, we are swept along by fine performances of songs such as Springtime for Hitler and Where Did We Go Right?. By the end, when Bialy and Bloom sing their tribute to loyalty and friendship, Til Him, the producers, and the rest of this talented cast, have won our hearts.
Runs until 9 June 2018 | Image: Contributed