Once again, the ambition and inventiveness of musical theatre companies almost leaves me breathless with the scope and quality of the work they undertake. This was very evident with Wexford Light Opera Society, who filled the magnificent Wexford Opera House nightly for the Irish Amateur Premiere of Mel Brooks’ smash hit musical, The Producers.
It is not an easy task to get such a premiere and then to be able to cast and crew it and reproduce many aspects of the Broadway experience. It is not easy in these recessionary times, to raise the finance for such a show, but that is the paradox of a musical that tells the outrageous story of two trickster producers who raise millions to have a first night flop but the show is a resounding success. Outrageous is the keyword with this show, that throw political and social correctness to the wolves and delivers an outrageously impressive show that spares no one in its camp gay vulgarity, its gloriously sexy dumb-blondness, its crazy treatment of old ladies or seniors, who have sexy, not senior, moments.
The audience in Wexford loved its outrageous style, its larger than life madness and its gloriously over-the-top song and dance routines. And what a cast, who were singing and dancing up a storm two and a half hours, into a physically demanding show. A standing ovation was wild and the smiles were wide and wonderful. What a wild Goodbye.
Much credit must go to the wonderful confident direction of Christine Scarry; Fintan Cleary’s brisk musical direction; John O’Donoghue’s quality set and Gerry Taylor’s fine lighting design.
From the moment Joanne Flood and her Usherette/Showgirls set the tone with Opening Night, you knew you were in for an outrageously good treat. The show within the show is Springtime For Hitler and Owen Brady was dynamite as the crazy Nazi, Franz Liebkind. Tony Carty, as Roger De Bris, was a whirlwind of camp craziness and Pat Lawlor almost topped him for craziness as Carmen Ghia.
Eric Hayes impressed as Storm Trooper and Catherine Walsh was a howl as the lascivious old lady, Hold Me Touch Me, ably assisted in naughtiness by Marian O’Leary and Micheline Murphy. The female chorus, who filled in as old dears, were at all times exciting to watch.
James McDermott was excellent as the confused and hesitant accouontant who became a Producer and George Lawlor was splendid, time and again, as the cornerstone of this show, Max Bialystock. What a tour de force of a performance.
Tracy Leonard as Ulla was amazing and her When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It (and she had It, in all the old familiar places), was indeed a showstopper.
It is not how many AIMS nominations this show will get but how many awards they will receive.
However, the organisation at this wonderful venue leaves a lot to be desired, and the blame has to be taken by the venue, not the hirer, as it is the venue that ultimately gets the poor press. Somebody has to be in charge and well-meaning but ineffectual people in dress suits, do not add to the solution when no member of the theatre seemed to be available to deal with seating and booking problems. An open channel walkie-talkie, or a dress-suit, does not make up for annoying cock-ups and Sure we’ll get you in somewhere… is not reassurance enough for patrons making a weekend of it in Wexford.