Richard Abel - Max Bialystock
Tom Watson - Leo Bloom
Fiona Haylock - Ulla
Matthew Austin - Frank Leibkind
David Brammer - Roger de Bris
James Golder - Carmen
Megan Abbott - Usherette, Showgirl, Pigeon and Pretzel
Sarah Bacon - Stree Walker, Showgirl, Old Lady, Stormtrooper and Prisoner
Adrian Baxter - First Nighter, Accountant, Bavarian Peasant and Convict
Jenny Baxter - First Nighter, Old Lady and Bavarian Peasant
Steve Brooks - First Nighter, Mr Marks, Indian, Nazi, Cop and Convict
Amy Camp - Street Walker, Showgirl, Old Lady, Stormtrooper and Prisoner
Chip Carpenter - Street Cleaner, Accountant, Judge and Jack le Pidus
Mike Cooke - Cop, Accountant and Bavarian Peasant
Claire Cooper - First Nighter, Showgirl, Old Lady and Bavarian Peasant
Eleanor Cullum-Hanshaw - Usherette, Showgirl, Pigeon and Beer Stein
Ella Crome - Street Walker, Showgirl, Old Lady, Stormtrooper and Prisoner
Jessica Field - Nun, Showgirl, Old Lady, Stormtrooper and Prisoner
Mandi Field - Nun, Showgirl, Old Lady, Stormtrooper and Prisoner
Karen Girdwood - Nun, Old Lady and Soldier
Hayley Hewitt - First Nighter, Showgirl and Old Lady
Sandra Johnson - Hold-Me-Touch-Me, First Nighter and Bavarian Peasant
William Johnson - First Nighter, Sailor, Soldier and Donald Dismore
Leslie Judd - Kevin, First Nighter and Bavarian Peasant
Amy Kent - First Nighter, Showgirl, Old Lady, Stormtrooper and Prisoner
Gemma Laing - First Nighter, Shirley and Bavarian Peasant
Rachel Marshall - Bin Lady, Old Lady and Bavarian Peasant
Natalie Mills - Paper Seller, Old Lady and Soldier
Jamie Nuttall - SS Officer, Scott, First Nighter, Accountant and Convict
Leah Nuttal - First Nighter, Showgirl, Old Lady and Bratwurst
Kate Oldfield - Nun, Old Lady and Soldier
Hugh Pearce - Bryan, First Nighter, Sailor, Accountant, Nazi, Cop, Convict and Jason Green
Jane Pearce - First Nighter, Showgirl, Old Lady, Stormtrooper and Prisoner
Daniel Wagg - First Nighter, Sailor, Accountant and Soldier
Irene Whitehouse - Nun, Old Lady and Soldier
Director - Matthew Kerslake
Producer - Megan Abbott
Chorreographer - Emily Law
Vocal Guidance - Claire Cooper
Pianist - Kate Mould
Keyboardist - Rachel Mycock
Percussionist - Debbie Hiles
Stage Manager - Chris Scott
Stage Crew - Becky Bourlet, Richard Bennett, Mark Fawkes and Mark Girdwood
Lights and Sounds Barry Ayres
Publicity - Megan Abbott and Amy Kent
Adverts - Leslie Judd and Daniel Wagg
Set Construction - Barry Ayres, Matthew Kerslake, Chris Scott, Hugh Pearce, Ian Anderson and Mark Girdwood
Set Painting - Gema Laing, Matthew Kerslake, Hugh Pearce and Claire Cooper
Props and Set Dressing - Kate Carpenter and Lizie Spavin
Box Office - Kate and Chip Carpenter
Costumes - Judy Parsons
Pigeon Puppets - Kate Carpenter
Front of House Manager - Cyril Pike
Front of House Team - Friends and members of the society
Bar - Nerys Brooks
Never Trust a Womble Review
Matthew Kerslake has waited a long time for the chance to direct The Producers. This wait was certainly worthwhile!
The plot revolves around Max Bialystock, a failing Broadway producer, who enlists the help of his cowardly former accountant, Leo Bloom, to pull off the scam of the century. Realising that they can make more money from a flop than a hit, our two hapless heroes set out to find and stage the worst musical ever. The result? Spring Time for Hitler, a musical homage to the Fuhrer, written by
a former-Nazi pigeon-fancier and directed by a man camper than the entire Glastonbury Festival.
An outrageous romp such as this has the potential for disaster, and comedy of this type requires careful casting in order to succeed. Thankfully, the Watlington Players rose magnificently to the occasion! Max Bialystock was brought to life by Richard Abel, who inhabited the role with his characteristic enthusiasm. He delivered a barrage of one-liners with an excellent sense of comic timing and surprised the audience with the strength of his singing voice, which will no doubt be utilised further in future Players productions.
Opposite Abel, the role of Leo Bloom might have paled into insignificance, but Tom Watson really threw himself into character, and his cowardly snivelling had us all in fits of laughter at regular intervals. Watson's competence in a lead role has really been proved here; his singing was excellent and his tap dancing was beguiling. Watch out Watlington, Watson is a triple threat!
In the role of Ulla, the Swedish actress, Fiona Haylock shone. In previous productions, it is Haylock's dancing skills that have been given prominence, but in this role she was given the opportunity to showcase her full range and has shown that she is a talented player in her own right. Her dancing was impeccable and the on stage chemistry she had with Watson sizzled throughout the piece. Haylock's comedy accent never wavered and her Swedish twang remained firmly in place, even after over ninety minutes of song and dance. Her singing voice was wonderful and she filled the role of leading lady with grace and aplomb.
As always, Matthew Austin excelled in a role that felt as though it was created exclusively for him. Saying this about a character who is a homicidal, Nazi-sympathising, bird-loving maniac may not seem like a compliment, but Austin embodied the German war criminal with an ardent physicality that showcased his dramatic skills to their fullest. It takes a confident actor not to upstaged by singing pigeons, but Austin retained full command of the stage. The mad glint in his eye made him both ridiculously comic and slightly unnerving. It's a fine line to tread, and one that Austin skipped along with gay abandon.
Speaking of which, David Brammer and James Golder were fantastic as director Roger DeBris and his theatrical companion Carmen. The chemistry between these two was electric and the over-the-top eccentricities were played with an affection that was both endearing and hilarious. The number 'Keep it Gay' evoked the loudest laughs from an appreciative audience and the performances from both Brammer and Golder were a joy to behold. Golder, especially, was able to put his expressive body language to good use, eliciting knowing chuckles from the crowd with a single raised eyebrow or flick of his hips.
The jokes came thick and fast all evening and were timed to perfection, with excellent direction from Matthew Kerslake. Every member of the large ensemble cast was on top form, and many chorus members fulfilled several roles, so that the show really felt as though it had a cast of thousands. One slight drawback though, was that the space sometimes felt crowded. However, this was more to do with the technical setting rather than the play itself. Kerslake's production would certainly have benefited from a larger stage.
The set was well-designed and scene changes were executed discreetly by an excellent team of stage hands. The music was well-paced and lively and the costumes were breath-taking in their construction. The show girl with a German sausage mounted on her head dress was a personal favourite of mine. On occasion, some of the singing was a little muffled, but overall the projection was great and Mel Brooks' fantastic material was brought to life with relish and wit by a cast of top class performers.
Congratulations to all those involved for a wonderful production!
31st July 2012