Ed Green reviews The Producers at Rugby Theatre
Director Alan Pavis evidently loves a challenge, as he couldn't have chosen a more physically and mentally demanding production.
With 19 members in the company alone and a live orchestra streamed from the building opposite, his work was cut out. Therefore it had to be West End quality - which I'm glad to say it was.
This talented company were well polished. A personal highlight was witnessing a gaggle of grannies overpower Max in a zeal of Zimmer frames. The choreography was impeccable - hats off to Catty Giles - and I was delighted to hear the terrific tap dancers perform without being drowned out by the orchestra, for which plaudits are due to Jon Watson, the musical director. Max Bialystock came naturally to Jez Malpas - the accent, body language and attitude all screamed New York. Ethan J Smith played the nervous socially awkward accountant Leo Bloom so well I doubted his singing abilities, but boy was I proved wrong! The comical Franz Liebkind played by Ash Bright had the crowd roaring with laughter effortlessly - look out for his pet pigeons scene. Abbie Spencer as Ulla didn't disappoint either, with an allure Uma Thurman would have been happy with and a pitch perfect set of pipes to go with it too.
Which leaves Timothy Sell as Carmen Ghia and Robert Bramley-Buhler playing Roger. I'm not sure who was the bigger star but both commanded the audience's attention brilliantly, utilising the stage and producing fluid chemistry which was laughed and cheered at equally.
This was great performance by all involved and will be a big hit - unless of course they want it to be a flop on purpose. A preposterous idea!
* The Producers runs until Saturday June 17. Visit www.rugbytheatre.co.uk to book.