It is no easy task for a university musical theatre society to deliver a holistic performance of high professional standard, excellent quality and non-stop fun for two and a half hours; most only achieve one successfully. This challenge is taken one step beyond when it comes to well-beloved shows such as Mel Brooks’ hit film and subsequent stage show The Producers, which the Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group has put blood, sweat and tears in for the last two months to put together and polish. And it most definitely delivers on all fronts.
When the eccentric yet fading Broadway producer Max Bialystock encounters the shy, but full-of-dreams accountant Leopold Bloom, a scheme so ridiculous it could almost work is born: produce a bound-to-flop show and escape with the money fundraised without getting caught. What follows is a sequence of comedic episodes involving Franz Liebkind, a Nazi soldier/playwright, Roger Debris, a drag queen/director and their creative team and Ulla, a Swedish secretary/receptionist, all culminating in a brightly coloured mocking caricature of Adolf Hitler.
This EUSOG production, led by director Kirsten Millar, displays a deep appreciation for the original source material and its handling of theatre tropes through classic lines and moments, such as Max inspiring Ulla’s introductory number with the simple motto, “When you’ve got it, flaunt it”. Moreover, it adds both a level of charm through several of Kathryn Young’s well-choreographed tap-dance sequences throughout the show and a modern flare through the gender-flipped role of Bloom’s employer, played by ensemble member Orla Newmark. Speaking of the Bialystock and Bloom duo, the double act of Max McLaughlin and Rob Merriam respectively brings tangible energy to the stage and they have the audience’s emotions and laughter under their control through their back-and-forth interactions, as well as their individual moments to shine. Equally as strong in her portrayal of Roger Debris is Taliah Horner, whose multiple costume changes and spectacular renditions of “Keep it Gay” and “Springtime for Hitler” deliver glamour and comedy. This strong leading cast, completed by Will Peppercorn and Georgie Rodgers as Franz and Ulla, is supported by a talented ensemble with stand-out moments being created by James Crang impersonating the bedazzled swastika on his left arm in mid-air. The production’s high quality is rounded off by the fairly simplistic and complementary set and lighting design, the intricately detailed costumes and well-skilled band, led by Caitlin Morgan.
EUSOG have once again delivered a dazzling performance, continuing their streak of successes in the Edinburgh musical theatre scene. The reviews are all in and, to quote Max Bialystock, “it was awful, it was disgusting and I loved every minute of it”.
28th November 2018
Image: Gavin Smart