Event review: ‘The Producers’ by Theatre Workshop Coulsdon

By - Wednesday 17th December, 2014

John Gass finds political incorrectness gone mad in Coulsdon

Coulsdon Community Centre, Chipstead Valley Road, Coulsdon, Surrey CR5 3BE

Time from East Croydon  26 mins by 166 

Thursday 18th December 8:00pm, Friday 19th 8:00pm, Saturday 20th 3:00pm and 8:00pm, Sunday 21st 3:00pm

Tickets £9, concessions £5

Springtime for Hitler.
Photo author’s own.

Mel Brooks’s film The Producers has become a classic and is a personal favourite, so I have to admit to some doubts as to whether Theatre Workshop Coulsdon (TWC), an amateur dramatic group, could manage to successfully stage such a large, over-the-top production. I needn’t have worried! As soon as I saw that the music was to be played live, and read in the programme that the wardrobe department had managed to create one hundred and twenty costumes, I realised that this was going to be something out of the ordinary.

The ethos of TWC is interesting, and I think it’s worth quoting what its members say about themselves on their website: “Original or not, all our productions tend towards the bold, exuberant, and generally larger than life. We don’t do ‘staple’ amateur dramatic fare: farces, whodunnits, schmaltzy musicals, Stoppards and Ayckbourns. So many amateur companies endlessly recycle this same fare – we prefer a different approach.” This is something I find refreshing and intriguing, so I’ve just signed-up for news of future productions. You can do the same by emailing the .

Funny, outrageous and totally over-the-top

As a stage show, The Producers has pedigree. Mel Brooks took it to Broadway in 2001, where it won twelve Tony awards and ran for more than 2,500 performances. And it shows: the script is spot-on and the songs are wonderfully catchy – something which some recent musicals have sadly failed to deliver. Talking of the songs, the programme, somewhat self-deprecatingly, states “We aren’t dancers. We aren’t singers”. Well, you got that wrong! The singing, both individually and as an ensemble, was strong and note-perfect, and the dancing was confident and delivered with pizzazz. Full marks to musical director, Mark Taylor, and choreographer, Emma Rose!

The director, Richard Lloyd, has done a great job, not only of directing the show, but also of having cast the parts so well. Quite how a relatively small company managed to find actors to fit each role so perfectly, I don’t know but, somehow it did, leaving me in an invidious position when it comes to singling out individuals for praise.

Nothing was remotely amateur about these dramatics

The story centres around a faded Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, played with conviction and total believability by Paul Ford, and Leo Bloom, a timid and easily manipulated accountant, played by Peter Bird, who effortlessly manages the challenging evolution the role demands. Together, Bialystock and Bloom hatch a scheme to get rich – by staging a Broadway flop! After much searching, they discover the script for ‘Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden’, written by pigeon-obsessed Nazi sympathiser Franz Liebkind, delivered with all the required gusto and goose-stepping by Mike Brown. What follows is funny, outrageous and totally over-the-top; political correctness has definitely been given the evening off!

Two more actors who delivered stand-out performances were Neil Grew, who plays outrageously camp producer Roger DeBris with total, well-placed confidence, and Lucy-Ann Martin in the role of Swedish sex-bomb Ulla (aka Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson!), who gave us a performance delivered with style and panache.

From beginning to end, this was a joyous evening

Bialystock and Bloom.
Photo author’s own.

Another thing that impressed me was the absolute professionalism of the show – nothing was remotely amateur about these dramatics – from the realisation of the ambitious sets, the accomplished and exuberant musicians and band singers, to each and every one of the large cast, all of whom acted their socks off, no matter how large or small their part. From beginning to end, this was a joyous evening and I can’t remember the last time a show made me laugh so much. Clearly, the audience was similarly infected by the energy and humour and there was loads of spontaneous laughter and a lot of well-deserved applause for the singers.

The front of house team also deserves a mention: I was warmly welcomed and there was a range of drinks available, including hot mulled wine. Tubs of local, hand-made ice-cream were on sale in the interval and, just for good measure, on the way out I was offered a free mince pie.

So ignore the frosty evenings and get yourself down to Coulsdon Community Centre for a warming, fun-packed, memorable evening.

You can book tickets on the TWC website, by emailing the , or by calling 07709 266728.

John Gass

John Gass

John is the Croydon Citizen's first associate editor, assisting Liz Sheppard-Jones in preparing articles for publication. His interests lie mainly with politics, culture and the arts. He has been a Croydon resident for ten years and, following a period of severe cut-backs, is delighted to see that the local arts and culture scene is starting to thrive and grow again.

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