BWW Review: THE PRODUCERS at Theatre on the Bay Got It, and Flaunts It
Boasting popular local names as well as fresh new faces, Pieter Toerien's new production of THE PRODUCERS does not disappoint as an homage to the hilarious stage and screen classic.
Once-famed Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Alan Committie) is down on his luck when it comes to putting on a hit show. Enter naïve public accountant Leo Bloom (Richard White), who comes to do Bialystock's books and discovers it's possible to make more money with a flop than with a hit. Bloom's dreams of becoming a producer can finally come true as Bialystock and Bloom decide to put on the worst play ever written with the worst director and worst actors in town. Mel Brooks' 1967 musical is quick-witted and risqué; with the catchy showtunes still stuck in my head days later.
Alan Committie floats between theatrical genres like it's the easiest thing in the world. Having last seen him in productions such as OLEANNA and RICHARD III, walking out of THE PRODUCERS begs the question, "Is there anything Alan can't do?". His renowned comedic timing shines as Bialystock, but he brings a new musical element to his talents that truly makes him a South African showbiz gem. Opposite him, in both demeanor and stature, Richard White makes his debut in a professional production in THE PRODUCERS and it is no doubt the actor will go far as a triple-threat. Familiar with his work in community theatre, leading men on South African stages need to move over as this young talent deserves to be seen in more principal parts.
White and Committie complement each other perfectly as Leo and Max and director Joseph Pitcher has created little nuances that work well for their physical differences. They also complete each other as a duo in terms of their talents: Committie might not be the strongest singer and White could use more self-assurance in his role, but together their balance is one almost close enough to rival Lane and Broderick. Adding to their duo, Raquel Munn is appealing as leading lady Ulla; it's just a pity this talented dancer isn't as strong in her vocals. Some of the Swede's classic quips were lost on audience members, but the blonde bombshell still does well to have a strong stage presence when necessary.
An absolute standout in his scenes was Schoeman Smit as Franz Liebkind. A role I can only associate with Will Ferrell, Smit turns down the whacky but gives his all in energy to the eccentric German playwright and clearly has fun with the part. Last but not least, the flamboyant couple of Roger DeBris and Carmen Gia (played by Terence Bridgett and Earl Gregory respectively) is side-splitting. Gregory proves himself particularly versatile coming straight from the more complex character of Lola in KINKY BOOTS, and has an excellent report and romp partnered with Bridgett.
What's refreshing about the entire casting in THE PRODUCERS is the fresh takes on characterizations. Anyone familiar with the film or stage production of Brooks' cheeky comedy knows how iconic the lead characters are, and each performer makes it their own in this production. The same can be said of the supporting cast who prove adaptable, well-rehearsed and vivacious throughout.
The entire ensemble of 15 in THE PRODUCERS seems to fit perfectly on the Theatre on the Bay's stage and in Michael Mitchell's set designs. Duane Alexander's choreography does well to fill up the small space with a variety of movements, and kudos to him and Mila de Biaggi for drilling mass tap numbers to come across seamlessly. The use of backing tracks was nerve-wracking at times, but it's clear musical director Garth Tavares has taken precautions with the cast to carefully time entrances and harmonies - and it must be said that harmonies really shone in this production! There's something wonderfully nostalgic about the smallness of THE PRODUCERS - it has an intimate, convivial ambience to it that can't help but make me feel Brooks would be proud to see this staging.
Showing at Theatre on the Bay until the end of March, I wouldn't waste any more time getting tickets to see this memorable rendition of the award-winning comedy. THE PRODUCERS sets the stage for musicals in 2020.
Photo credit: Jesse Kramer
THE PRODUCERS will be performed at Theatre On The Bay until 28 March, and at Pieter Toerien's Montecasino Theatre from 3 April - 31 May. Tickets can be purchased via Computicket.