The International Writers Magazine: Musical Review
Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London.
A review by Alex Segal (Based on the 26th March 2005 performance.)
Kenneth Avery-Clark, Stephen Carlile, Nicolas Colicos, Hadrian
Delacey, James Dreyfus, Kate Graham, Amanda Minihan, Sherrie Pennington,
Simon Adkins, Caroline Barnes, Suzanne Bullock, Leigh Constantine,
Lisa Donmall, Cory English, Lee Evans, Christian Gibson, James
Gray, Conleth Hill, Kelly Homewood, David Hulston, James Le Feuvre,
Rachel McDowall, Brad Oscar, Gavin Staplehurst, Luzahnn Taylor,
Emma Tunmore, Desi Valentine and Leigh Zimmerman.
Music and Book by Mel Brooks (with Thomas Meehan).
Direction and Choreography by Susan Stroman.
The musical built
on the Oscar-winning film starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, Mel
Brooks The Producers, made its West End premiere on November 9th
2004 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London after winning 12 Tony Awards
in its four years on Broadway. Some may say that this sure-fire hit
is perhaps the best comedy musical to tread the boards of the West End
in years and is sure to pull in the crowds night after night.
The Tony Award nominee Brad Oscar has again replaced Nathan Lane as
the down on his luck Broadway producer Max Bialystock, a role he played
in America for two years. Zany funny man Lee Evans, often referred to
as a young Norman Wisdom, is worth every penny as the highly-strung
accountant Leopold Bloom. The comic combination of Oscar and Evans gave
the audience the most perfect pairing you could ever wish to see, the
latter receiving applause in his opening entrance.
The action revolves around Max and Leo who attempt to utilize a plan
to make millions by producing a theatrical flop that is so bad that
it will close within a week leaving them to pocket the rest of the money
and retire to Rio. They employ the deranged Franz Liebkind (Nicolas
Colicos), who breeds a collection of Nazi-saluting pigeons, and his
musical Springtime for Hitler for their scheming
plan and off they go attempting to find financial backers in the form
of old age pensioners, the worst possible director and the most inept
actors to truly make sure the musical is the biggest flop Broadway has
Former Chicago star Leigh Zimmerman enters the fray as the exquisite
Ulla, a femme fatale looking for work as an actress, who is cast by
Bialystock and Bloom faster than you can say blonde hair, long
legs and Swedish. Olivier Award winning and Tony Award nominee
Conleth Hill, who takes on the role of Roger DeBris, is almost a cartoon
caricature in his portrayal as the camp, melodramatic, dress-wearing
director. Equally as extravagant and histrionic is his assistant Carmen
Ghia, played by Gimme Gimme Gimmes James Dreyfus. These two most
definitely gave us laughs till we were past laughter and ready to reach
for the handkerchiefs. For Max and Leo, however, Springtime
for Hitler doesnt work as well as they had originally
planned which leads the audience into a highly tensed, show-stopping
The quality of the production shone from every inch of the stage. From
the costumes to the set design and the audacity of Mel Brooks
plot, which uses wit as a way of mocking one of the most abhorrent events
in the history of the last century, was nothing short of breath taking.
Combined with the catchy lyrics of The King of Broadway,
I Wanna Be A Producer, Betrayed
and Keep It Gay, the songs will keep you humming
all the way home.
This is a must see for theatre fans and is a welcome addition to the
selection of shows that London has to offer.
Unfortunately, Lee Evans and Brad Oscar will be vacating their Drury
Lane dressing rooms come April 23rd. No news as yet to their replacements,
however, rumours point to My Family and Love Actually star Kris Marshall
for the role of Bloom. If you cant make it down to Drury Lane,
you neednt worry, as Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are currently
reforming their partnership that ignited the original Broadway production
by filming The Producers: The Movie Musical set for a 2005/2006 release.
© Alex Segal April 1st 2005
all rights reserved