MUSICAL REVIEW: COD's The Producers ★★★★
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Tuesday 4th June 2019
The Cheltenham Operatic and Dramatic Society, based in Cheltenham, are not ones to hold back on their productions; From Avenue Q to The Full Monty, Legally Blonde to Sister Act, they have always gone big and bold juggling between The Playhouse and The Everyman, with their latest production, Mel Brooks' The Producers, being no exception to the list, and probably the most risk taking. It's fair to say leaving the performance that this is a production to go into with a laid back approach and be swept away by the charm on stage.
Ben Leeke and Ben Wilson respectfully portray Broadway Producer and prodigy Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom with sheer commitment and mannerisms, Wilson particular giving a performance that would set him on par with any West End or professional touring performer you could see in recent times. Leeke meanwhile gives a blazing performance as loud and brash Bialystock, who has dollars in his eyes and older ladies in his arms. Both on stage have genuine chemistry, and with Elizabeth Cox joining the team in the latter half of Act One, the chemistry she oozes with Wilson as Leo Bloom is a delight and something that you rarely see in Amateur Dramatics.
On their hunt for the worst play to ever produce, Springtime for Hitler, to match Max and Leo must also find the world's worst director, in the form of Roger De Bris (Gary Haseley-Nejrup) and his partner Carmen Ghia (Des Rowlinson). This comedy duo provide hysterics for the audience and are a real highlight to this production, especially in their introduction set at De Bris household with entourage, who share a vague resemblance to the village people.
Whilst the acting and character mannerisms are strong and locked down to provide what is a hugely enjoyable show, the bare stage during tedious scene changes and blackouts lose the energy, whether this was a lack of time to rehearse these movements at The Everyman before the show went up we will not know, but hopefully by the time the curtain comes down on Saturday evening’s final performance, these moments which bring a halt to the performance will be smoothed out, instead of witnessing sets bashed into the wings after the scenes has finished.
Overall, COD’s adaption of this risky and raunchy Mel Brooks’ production in general hits all the high notes with a strong mix of acting, characterisation and chemistry, but sadly due to scene change logistics and at times shaky choreography, at times the performance halts, though with still five performances left at The Everyman, this will sure be refined and smoothed to produce what is already fast becoming a slick production from a company who always bring the goods and the roof down with a rapturous applause.