Directed by Rowan Marshall
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Direction & Musical Direction
Assistant to the Director
Author: Don McKay
We received a warm welcome into the foyer of the Priory Centre by FOH Manager Colin Webber and his team, all smartly dressed in black and white and easily identifiable. Mel Brook’s “The Producers”, is one of my favourite musicals, and so I sat down with great anticipation to watch this VAMPS production. I was very excited to see that when the house tabs opened it was an almost bare stage, except for two lifts of rostra upstage, beneath a full sized screen on which images were projected as the backdrops. This was great, however the images, designed by Paul Parsons, and used throughout, could have been more vibrant and animated in some scenes, something to think about in future productions perhaps, but the screen did allow plenty of performance area for the big production numbers to follow. I was surprised to see that animated projected images weren’t used in the scene changes, rather than a half blackout and uncomfortable vamping from the pit. The lighting by Matthew Watson, was good but limited, as the use of projection washed out the wash’s, and made any specials unnoticeable, perhaps some scenes could have allowed for more lighting to be seen on stage, i.e. the prison cell. The Sound also by Chris Glenton was clear and well balanced. The minimal sets were good and efficiently managed by Stage Manager John Shadlock, however the door flats were a bit flimsy and clumsy. The Costumes by Graham Wilkinson and several members of cast were good, with good amounts of variation and colour. There were a well sourced and manufactured assortment of Properties on display by Paul Parsons and Keith Jenkinson.
Max Biallystock played by Wolfie Hammerbacker, who gave a great performance with plenty of energy, aided and abetted by his naïve partner in crime, accountant Leo Bloom, played endearingly by Ian Worsfold, have to produce a box office flop in order to make a million dollars, and so they set out to find firstly, the worst script ever written, this was in the form of the mad Nazi, Hitler worshipping author Franz Leibken, played with gusto by Luke Powell, secondly, the worst Director, Roger Debris, played excellently by George Kelly who wowed us with “Springtime for Hitler“, assisted by his life partner Carmen Ghia, played with superb campness by Simon Ockenden, and thirdly, a million dollar investment, provided by the old ladies of New York, who all happen to be Max‘s clients in his sordid sexual role playing business. The glamour in the piece was provided by their beautiful secretary Ulla, played by Allie Kidman. These were all strong performances, that had good comedy timing. The chorus were many, and generally very good, however the show girls in “I Wanna be a Producer” were a bit sloppy and unsynchronised, and on a couple of separate occasions, certain members of the chorus left the stage before the blackout, which showed a lack of concentration . Emma Evans Choreography was good, but I didn’t like the inclusion of the six foot male in drag for “I Wanna be a Producer”, it would have made more sense if this character had been highlighted as “not you” by Leo Bloom, but as he wasn’t, it made no sense at all, and was only funny because of it‘s awkwardness, I also didn’t understand why, in “Little Old Lady Land”, there were two young dancers, with no attempt at aging, performing with the only two zimmer frames. The Musical Direction by Rowan Marshall, vocally was very good, however I did think that the Band, seemed under rehearsed ,and lacked body and crispness. Rowan Marshall and RaeAnna Hammerbacker’s Direction was good, however there were a few mistakes in some of the positioning in some scene’s. Max’s desk should have been facing downstage rather than upstage ,which would have allowed for more natural turns, and in the Courtroom scene, the Judge and Jury would have been better positioned if they had been switched, so that the twenty old ladies with all of their facial reactions could have been viewed straight on from the audience point of view, and the Judge, who only had a couple of lines, could have still been seen clearly from stage right, this also would have eliminated the need for Leo Bloom to have faced unnaturally out front, when he was supposed to be addressing the Judge who was raised upstage centre.
This was a very entertaining production with some excellent individual performances.