Mel Brooks musical-The Producers: Review

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Theatre On The Bay: February 4 to March 28, 2020

Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre: April 3, 2020 to May 31, 2020

Director: Joseph Pitcher (UK)

Cast: Alan Committee, Richard White, Earl Gregory, Terence Bridgett, Raquel Munn, Schoeman Smit, Devin Butterworth, Nathan Muller, Philip Schnetler, Joshua van Niekerk, Michele La Trobe, Nicolette Fernandes Chloe Perling, Nadine Suliaman and Claire Glover.

Creative team: details follow at end of this article

Tickets: R100-R380 in Cape Town and R120-R380 in Johannesburg

Bookings: Computicket

Picture credit: Jesse Kramer

Fabulous! I saw The Producers in London over ten years ago and went dilly. In 2018, in Cape Town, I saw a fun and energetic production staged by a non-professional company.  Now for the 3rd time, I am going: “whoohoo, fabulous”. The Producers is a wacky, comedy musical but also has lots of heart – as a meditation on friendship, love and self-affirmation.

The principal actors – headed by Alan Committie are fabulous. The ensemble is fabulous. It is rollicking fun with loads of physical comedy, clowning, farce (exits and entrances), off-beat lines; a melange of crazy accents (simpering femme fatale; Irish policemen in a New York milieu etc)

The musical was adapted in 2001, by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan – based on Brooks’ 1967 film of the same name starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. Brooks won an Oscar for best screenplay. It was the first film that he directed.  The stage adaption won 12 Tony Awards and three Olivier Awards. It is as I say a fabulous musical, yup, 12 Tony Awards.

Alan Committie nails it as the has-been Broadway producer, Max Bialystock. Max has not had a hit in years and he fleeces old ladies to get by and canoodles with them on his casting couch. Last year [2019], Committie played Richard III at Maynardville Open Air Festival and here he is utterly transformed as the flustered Max B – stuffed into his too tight suit and wearing a bad toupee – who yearns to be restored to his former glory days as a producer maven. Committie has been nominated for a 2020 Fleur Du Cap Theatre Award for Richard III and he deserves another nomination for his knock-out performance in The Producers. By the way, Committie already has a FDC. In 2007, he won best actor Fleur du Cap Theatre Award, for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Since, then there have been umpteen nominations. His work in multiple genres is astounding – comedy, drama, musical theatre. I would love to see him score an award for his musical theatre prowess. In The Producers, he harnesses his acting and comedic smarts to create a delicious Max B.

Terrific synergy between Committie’s Max B and Richard White‘s Leo Bloom- the young accountant who becomes Max’s accomplice. Bloom cooks up the idea of staging a bad taste Broadway show, Springtime for Hitler, A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden which is intended to fail. All they need is a bad script, a dreadful director and awful actors. Committie and White are hilarious as they cavort across the stage- propping each other up – falling – hiding.

Terence Bridgett as the schlock director Roger DeBris and Earl Gregory as Carmen Ghia, his assistant conjure up delicious comedy. (Bris, by the way is the word for Jewish circumcision and Mel Brooks used that very deliberately). Bridgett and Gregory were in Kinky Boots which recently wrapped up at The Fugard Theatre and it is wonderful to see them on stage again.

Gregory has been nominated for a 2020 Fleur du Cap Theatre Award for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots. In The Producers he again shows his versatility. His Lola was about control. Every movement was precise and considered. As the assistant to Roger, he is unrecognizable – flapping his arms and scampering over the stage. One of my favourite lines in The Producers is when Bloom and Bialystock first meet with Roger. They have just come from sealing the deal with the pro-Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind (played by Schoeman Smit) and are still wearing swastikas on their coats. Carmen says: “May I take your coats and swastikas”. Gregory’s timing is impeccable as he discharges that line.

Mel Brooks was a genius in scribing the book (script). The film opened in 1968 – 23 years after the end of the Second World War. The Holocaust was fresh in people’s minds. Brooks cooked up lines like: “We’re marching to a faster pace, look out here comes the master race!” It was and is a comedy but he was jibing at the chilling absurdity of the Nazi regime and conjuring up a cautionary tale on stage. We laugh at these clowns but we have other clowns in our landscape. In 2001, Brooks adapted the piece for the stage and the world wasn’t exactly a pretty place. It still isn’t. From my first viewing of The Producers in London to this Pieter Toerien Production, the show has resonated with me – beyond just being a comedy musical- as it reverberates against the dangerous clowns who are dominating politics globally. It is a fabulous, hilarious, satirical musical and with this cast of South African talented artists at the helm, it is again a delight to see.

Creative team credits: Mel Brooks’ The Producers- South Africa, 2020

Director – Joseph Pitcher 

Choreographer – Duane Alexander

Musical Director – Garth Tavares

Costume Designer – Penny Simpson

Set Designer – Michael Mitchell

Sound Designer – Mark Malherbe

Lighting Designer – Fahiem Bardien

Projection Designer – Kirsti Cumming

Stage Manager – Alyssa Harrison

Assistant Choreographer – Mila De Biaggi

Mel Brooks’ The Producers SA 2020 -Theatre Travel advisory


Theatre On The Bay: February 4 to March 28, 2020.Tickets  R100-R380

Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre: April 3, 2020 to May 31, 2020. Tickets R120-R380

Bookings: Computicket