The Producers

‘The Producers’ is the stage show of the hilarious 1968 smash hit musical, written specifically for the screen by comedic genius Mel Brooks; the show won a record 12 Tony Awards. Later, at the 41st Academy Awards Mel Brooks won an Oscar for the Story and Screenplay. Despite being 55 years old, this musical is still as funny and fresh as ever, with fast paced humour, ridiculous accents, caricatures and many show business in-jokes. 

The Alexandra Theatre Company are presenting ‘The Producers’ at the Regal Theatre, 474 Hay Street in Subiaco (corner Rokeby Road and Hay Street) for 4 shows only. The curtain rises at 7.30 each evening, the season runs between the 8th and the 10th of April. There is one matinée on Saturday 10th April at 2.00 pm.

Built around 1904, the Alexandra Theatre is the second oldest operating theatre in WA. Named after Queen Alexandra of Denmark – the wife of Edward VII – the theatre was built as an actual theatre and later converted to a cinema. After the theatre’s many ‘lives’, the founder and CEO of the newly revived Alexandra Theatre, musician David Hardie and the Chairman Stefan Brand, are developing their teaching programme to include vocational sessions and a wider integrated range of theatre skills.

This incredibly talented cast and crew include graduates from Curtin Theatre Arts and WA Academy of Performing Arts. There are even local performers who have returned home after working on Broadway and the West End.

The scene:           New York in 1959

The set design Stephen Carr and Peter Carr:          Mainly theatre producer Bialystock’s office. Leo’s initial accountancy office. De Bris’s sumptuous home.

Set construction:              Stephen Carr, Pear Carr, Sarah Connolly, Daniel Ramsell, Taylor “Mutta” Beilby and Maddison Thomas.

Lighting designer:            Luke Simpson came up with superb effects and mood lighting.

The sound balance and effects:                  these were capably handled by Jake Goodsell (also Audio Technik – headsets) and his assistant, Jonathan Hoey.

The stage manager:        is Sarah Connolly. Sarah is normally in charge of a variety of technical and management skills, but because of her reliability she has been given the massive task of herding the actors and supervising the movement of massive flats and props. on the stage. Sarah was capably aided by her Deputy Stage Manager, Natasha Weir. Cait Griffiths, Elizabeth Offer, Sacha Emeljanow, Taylor “Mutta” Beilby and Claudia Soler Bernardini were the Assistant Stage Managers. Claudia was also given the onerous task of sourcing the properties.

A selfish, arrogant, fiery, King of Broadway theatre producer Max Bialystock (Peter ‘Pear’ Carr, named after Polish city of Bialystok) opened ‘Funny Boy’, a musical version of Hamlet. As the blind violinist (Alanna van Mierlo) busks, the smart usherettes (Asha Perry, Clare Thomson) welcome the opening night wealthy guests (Alex Hutchings, Rachel Vonk) as street beggars (Curtis Barry, Nicole Sero) looked on. Even Elvis (Travis Koch) arrived. It was a terrible production and the show closed after one performance.

The next day, still carrying his childhood security blanket, nervous and shy Leo Bloom (Matthew Arnold, named after the central character in James Joyce’s Ulysses), Max’s insipid but pedantic accountant with a burning desire to be theatre producer arrives to audit his books. When one of Max’s little old kinky lady investors (Amber Anderson, Cassy Eaton) arrives, Max tells Leo to wait in the bathroom until she leaves. She plays a sex game with Max, who eventually cons her into investing in his next play.

After a panic attack when Max touches his blue blanket, Leo tells Max that he has found an accounting error in his books: Leo points out that under the right circumstances, a producer could actually make more money with a flop than he could with a hit. Bialystock is hooked by the idea and searches for the worst play ever written.

                When Leo arrives back at Mr Mark’s miserable accountancy firm six minutes late, Mr. Marks (Phillip Steele-Young) goes mad. Leo realizes that his job is terrible and quits, returning to Max fulltime. Max decides a sure-fire flop that would offend people of all races, creeds and religions, ‘Springtime for Hitler’, a Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva written by a local, emotionally unstable playwright and ex-Nazi, Franz Liebkind (German for ‘lovechild’). They find Franz (Brad Towton) at home in Greenwich Village on the roof with his pigeon coops.

                Now to find the worst director, none other than the flamboyant and gay Roger De Bris (‘Bris’ is the Jewish circumcision ceremony). Roger (David Nelson) and his flouncing ‘common law-assistant’, the hilarious Carmen Ghia – named after the VW Karmann Ghia (Max Gipson) are visited. They decline the offer. Leo discovers Roger has a collection of ‘pets’ – his butler, Sabu, in tight lurex shorts (Nelson Fannon), in black netting, Bryan (Joshua Towns), butch Shirley (Alex Thorburn) and Scott (Alan Gill).  

Flaunting it, Swedish Ulla (Gabi Munro) Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson auditions for the job of Max’s secretary. The producers are impressed, mostly by her sex-appeal, and hire her!

The opening night crowds arrive (Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Smith) – even a couple of nuns (Michelle Ezzy, Chloe Smith). Franz falls down the stairs and breaks his leg, so Roger takes over the part of Hitler. After the opening showgirls (Bree Hartley, Chloe Palliser, Ella Waterman), the mood changes with swastikas unfurling as Nazis dance (Kyra Belford-Thomas, Hayleigh French-Bluhm, Tori Brown, Shannon McCann, Arianne Westcott-King) whilst a stormtrooper (Travis Dark) goosestepped below. Roger’s performance is so camp it is taken as satire and to Max’s horror, the production is a huge hit.

Suspecting a tax fiddle, police officer O’Houlihan (Cat Broom) arrives and confiscates the account books. The producers go before a jury (Rhys Healy, Archer Larwood, Shelby McKenzie, Max Leunig). What will their fate be?    

Peter Carr, commonly known as ‘Pear’, is best known for his set building skills. After graduating from WAAPA (Set Construction) he worked in The West End of London as Deputy Master Carpenter at The Harold Pinter Theatre. Currently he is Head of Stage at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. Many friends who have known Pear for years, will still be blown away by the quality of his acting, accent, singing and total stage performance.

Again, with a Curtin degree, Matthew Arnold has just completed a WAAPA degree in musical performance. Always a fine actor, Matt is proving to be a superb allrounder.

What an amazing leading lady; Gabi Munro first performed in the musical Annie in 2012 at Crown Theatre. She has since toured with the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2020. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts from Curtin and is now studying Performance Making at WAAPA.

For Max Gipson this is his first major role at a big venue in over 10 years and he has loved every minute of the process in bringing this show to life. Max has already won a prestigious Finlay award for a musical performance.

Brad Towton was amazing as the warped playwright Franz with his German accent and lederhosen dance.

Despite being slightly older than the rest of the cast, David’s performance was energetic, enthralling and hilarious. Most impressive.

Musical Director, Megan McDonald, is a violinist and seasoned performer and is no stranger to the Regal Theatre stage with several major performances including ‘Legally Blonde’, ‘Beauty and The Beast’ and ‘Grease the Musical’ under her belt. With 20 musicians in the orchestra pit often half the audience will not hear a note of the singers. Megan had exceptional control over the players and the balance of the music. In a few numbers, the percussion went with the actors’ comedic actions precisely. Rousing music with the big sound for the dance numbers.

The melodious orchestra comprised on Reed 1 Mark Wilson, Grace Kay, Reed 2 Talitha Dunn, Reed 3 Jeni Stevens, Reed 4 Tara Oorjitham, Reed 5 Jake Busby, Justin Farinosi, Trumpet Samantha Marley, Paul Marion, Sarah Brown, Trombone Dale Wescombe, Lois Mitchell, Keyboard Shaun Davis, Percussion Aaron Logan, Drums Anthony Leadbetter, Violin David Maconochie, Stuart Robertson, Cello Amanda Reynolds and Bass Suresh Manievannan.

The wonderful pit (backing) singers included Dylan Dorotich, Edzelle Abrio, Grace Johnson, Max Conroy and Andre Victor. The lead singers sang with gusto, yet every word was clearly audible. Great chorus.

In some countries, this show was banned for years due to some of its storylines, e.g., there is a scene which appears to praise Hitler. Don’t forget that this show was written by a well-known Jewish comedian, initially produced by a Jewish backer and had 50% Jewish audiences. It was a colossal hit. There are – in today’s atmosphere – numerous politically incorrect comments, but like the good old humour of 1980s TV it is harmless and will bring many a chuckle.

Award-winning director, Stephen Carr and his assistant director Madison Laine Thomas, even with years of theatre experience behind them were faced with a massive task staging and directing such a large show, but you can see the thought, sweat and blood that must have gone into such a complex but brilliant production. Their cast and crew are the cream of WAAPA and Curtin and they have bonded in the trust given to them and served the producer and directors well. The show was full of inventive movement with subtle comedy incorporated.

Kiwi, Ashleigh Winter is the extraordinarily talented choreographer; with a delightful choice of genres, she had her showgirl dancers deliver high-kicking lines, acrobatics, cartwheels, goosestepping and some brilliant tap routines, that even had us oldies wanting to get up there and join in. Ashley teaches hip hop dancing full time in primary schools. This is Ashleigh’s third musical as choreographer: Amazing work by Ashleigh and her two dozen dancers.

In a bright bubbly musical, awe-inspiring costume quality is a fundamental requirement. With some of the routines having up to three dozen dancers, the assignment for the costumière was horrendous. Costume designer Kiri Siva and her magical team produced literally hundreds of amazing costumes. Kiri’s hard working sweatshop assistants were Nicole George and Jane Tero, ably aided by wardrobe supervisor Evangalyn Brown, wardrobe assistants Laura Hill and Laura Hamilton.  The costumes ranged from boring accountants white shirts to the bling laden ‘bikinis’ of the dancers.

The hair styles, wigs and makeup which in many shows would be a quick comb of the hair and a touch of lipstick; this production demanded 20 old ladies, gay colour and glowing dancers, great work by the team of Tanya McKeon, Hannah Stobie, Negin Nawabi, Lily Bryans, Ryan Wright, Isabella Devereux and Paige Carberry.

This production has all the pizzaz, sparkle, energy and glamour of highly funded shows, and yet it is correctly classed as Community Theatre. David Hardie must be applauded for putting his money into the show; by doing this he has given a massive cast a chance to be in a major production, an opportunity that rarely arises in Perth, or even in Melbourne or Sydney. The show oozes quality and opulence. The only thing that is cheap about the production is the ticket price.

Declared ‘The funniest musical of all time’ by Broadway World – what do you think of this wild, politically incorrect romp? A controversial masterpiece.