Review: The Producers by Act Too
Act Too Group
Partners: Leo (Nick Pritchard) and Max (James Simmonds) are less than enthusiastic about Franz's (Joe Hill) Nazi leanings
The Hawth, Crawley
Reviewed by Tony Flook
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ACT Too achieved a notable coup when it staged the UK amateur premier of Mel Brooks's hugely popular musical. Its highly polished, often professional standard production, directed by Lance Milton, explored every facet of this imaginative, tuneful show.
There's nothing subtle about The Producers. Political correctness doesn't stand a chance as it encourages the audience to laugh at sensitivities of any kind. To succeed, it must be tackled head on and with total commitment. Everyone involved in Act Too's staging brought energy to and belief in their sometimes incredible, off-the-wall, characters.
James Simmonds was at the heart of the action as Max Bialystock, failing showman who seizes the chance to improve his fortunes through a tax scam. He was on the move throughout and won the audience over from the start with his lament about when he was King of Broadway. His witty lines were always impeccably timed and pointed. The scene in which he relived the entire plot in, maybe, three minutes, was a memorable highlight.
He was ideally balanced by Nick Pritchard as Leo Bloom, his naïve, initially unwilling partner in crime. What maturity and talent this 18-year old showed in his acting, footwork and, most notably, singing such as when he shared his dream in I Want to be a Producer.
The supporting roles were played with the same panache. Joe Hill was an uncompromising Hitler-obsessed playwright, who had even taught his pet pigeons to salute Nazi style. It was easy to believe that Barrie Ward's oh-so gay Roger DeBris really was the worst director on Broadway. Ian Foster's interpretation of raving queen Carmen Ghia was, at times, too stylised.
Victoria Rogers flaunted herself shamelessly as Scandinavian sexpot, Ulla. Nick Lucas came to the fore when he took the lead in the show's major production number Springtime for Hitler.
The chorus's most innovative number featured a group of old women dancing and even tapping, with Zimmer frames. The sequence in which the dancers formed a rotating swastika did not work as well.
Michael Hinton and his band made a major contribution with their whole-hearted interpretation of the score.
Apart from slight and understandable delays between some scenes, action never stopped and rarely even slowed to draw breath. Indeed, at the end, it was difficult to realise just how much time had gone by.