The Producers // Queensland Musical Theatre

Review by Anina-Marie Van Wyk

Queensland Musical Theatre’s production of Mel Brooks’ classic, The Producers, is uproarious. This show is everything it should be and more. Queensland Musical Theatre (QMT) and the company of The Producers should be immensely proud of this hilarious production that grips the audience from start to finish.

Adapted for the stage from Mel Brooks’ 1967 film of the same name, the plot centres on two theatrical producers who deceitfully oversell their stakes in a Broadway flop in an effort to make a killing. When the show unexpectedly succeeds, complications occur. The show’s humour is based on ludicrous accents, gay caricatures, Nazis, and numerous inside jokes from the show-business industry. 

The original Broadway production, which starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, debuted at the St. James Theatre in 2001, following 33 previews. It ran for over 2500 performances and received a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards. In addition to several productions throughout the world and a 2005 movie adaptation, it inspired a successful West End production that ran for just over two years.

For a community theatre in Brisbane to take on this behemoth of a musical is certainly brave. But QMT does not shy away from the challenge and it really pays off. Directed by Nathaniel Currie with Musical Direction from Benjamin Tubb-Hearne and Choreography from Julianne Burke, this production is simply divine.

Photography by Creative Street

Nathaniel Currie’s direction is clear and consistent from beginning to end. With assistance from James Rogers, the blocking flows smoothly, the transitions are seamless and the character’s motivations are delivered with gusto. Currie and Rogers’ efforts culminate in a laugh-out-loud theatre experience that packs a punch.

Musical Director, Benjamin Tubb-Hearne, has coached the vocalists to perfection and the orchestra in the pit plays the music with pizazz. All of the songs are great but standout musical numbers include ‘The King of Broadway’, ‘We Can Do It’, the classic ‘I Wanna Be a Producer’, ‘That Face’ and ‘Betrayed’. 

Julianne Burke’s choreography is simply spectacular. This production features some complex dance sequences including a classic tap number, old ladies dancing with walking frames, and a stage full of dancing Nazis in ‘Springtime for Hitler’. Each of these moments is handled with skill and ease, with clever choreography that engages the audience perfectly. ‘Along Came Bialy’ stands out, in particular, as one of the choreography highlights from this production. Stunning!

Photography by Creative Street

This production is expertly led by a dynamic duo: Tony Campbell in the role of Max and Ray Gillmore as Leo. These two actors make this show the success that it is. Ultimately, The Producers is a show about friendship and without strong stage chemistry between these two leads, the premise would unravel quickly. But Campbell and Gillmore deliver in spades; conjuring a believable pair that the audience can root for. 

Campbell is the absolute standout performer of this production. The role of Max Bialystock is complex but Campbell more than rises to the challenge. Almost never leaving the stage, Campbell delivers a performance that is pitch perfect. He never misses a beat and, despite Max being kind of a scoundrel, we can’t help but love him. Campbell is the perfect casting choice for this role. HIs performance is believable, enjoyable and absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. Bravo!

Ray Gillmore’s Leo is the perfect counterpart to the brash Max. Gillmore’s performance is funny, and his vocals are delivered with immense skill. Gillmore’s vocal range is impressive as he hits some absolutely gorgeous, soft high notes with immense skill. Gillmore’s charm and charisma shines through in his role as Leo. His delivery of ‘I Wanna Be a Producer’ is a highlight of the evening. 

Photography by Creative Street

In the role of Franz Liebkind, Byron Philp is absolutely spectacular. Philp’s performance is perfect from the moment he emerges on stage to the very end. Performing Franz requires not only incredible charisma and comedic timing but also maintaining a convincing German accent throughout the show. Philp is more than up to this challenge. His performance is refreshing, charismatic and funny. Philp also delivers some gorgeous vocals in ‘Have You Ever Heard The German Band’. Wow!

Steve Beck in the role of Roger Debris is fantastic. Beck’s performance is hilarious and his vocals are stunning. Beck delivers a stunning vocal performance in ‘Springtime For Hitler’ that stands out. Beck’s chemistry with Jo Burnett’s Carmen makes for a perfect bantering relationship. Burnett’s performance is also immensely enjoyable. Burnett delivers a sassy Carmen that the audience simply loves. 

As Ulla, Kate Retzki appears every bit the alluring Swedish showgirl. Retzki’s stunning dance moves and charming personality creates a lovable character. It is easy to see why Ulla stole Max and Leo’s hearts the moment she walks into the office. Retzki has a phenomenal stage presence that draws in not only Max and Leo but also the audience.

Patricia Rhodes, Maria Newman and Emily Straus as Hold Me-Touch Me, Kiss Me-Feel Me and Lick Me-Bite Me respectively are all amazing! These ladies deliver standout supporting performances that has the audience in stitches. Bravo!

Photography by Creative Street

Kris Brennan’s Mr Marks is the boss we all love to hate. His performance is excellent. Matthew Butler’s numerous solos are note perfect. And Erin Hall and Rachel McMurray as the Usherettes shine. Hall and McMurray charm the audience and sing some stunning harmonies.

This production is supported by an ensemble of immensely talented performers who create the world of the show including Jo Badenhorst, Grace Burke, Isabel Byrne, Mike Lapot, Reagan Lovett, Loretta Mellit, Alicia Hellens, Sarah Hufnagel, Cassie George, Kristie Rabbitt, Brett Roberts, Andre Wium, Brian Smith, Nathan McMillan, Connie Acevedo Burchardt, Sarah Han, Megan Humby, Wendy Lang and Gillian Peterson. Without this group of performers, this show would not be the success that it is.

Overall, Queensland Musical Theatre’s production of The Producers is highly enjoyable, absolutely hilarious with an outstanding cast. This show is an absolute must see for anyone who likes to laugh. Bravo!

The Producers is being performed at Twelfth NIght Theatre until 30 October. Get your tickets now! 

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