The Producers

Wed 30th October – Sat 2nd November 2013


Lucy Rayfield

at 09:19 on 31st Oct 2013



As is widely known, ‘The Producers’ is a musical which tells the tale of Max Bialystock, bombastic one-time ‘King of Broadway’, and Leo Bloom, an introverted accountant. These unlikely partners team up to create the worst musical ever composed- plotting, however, to close the curtains on opening night and head to Rio with the two million dollars raised to fund the production. Having seen neither the film nor any previous performances of this musical, I was eager to see whether the University of Oxford Student Company DEM Productions would fulfil my expectations of this classic. I was not disappointed.

The curtains opened to the sound of an impressively slick twenty-five piece orchestra, and the plot immediately began to race. The stage filled with totally unbelievable characters that were somehow totally believable: Bialystock (played by Jack Herlihy) had the New York accent down to a fine art (in fact, he sounded disconcertingly like Nathan Lane) and perfect comic timing. Stephen Hyde (who played Bloom) was also a talented actor with a wickedly impressive singing voice, as was Philip Rigley (who played Liebkind). Ghia (played by Alexander Wickens) was quite frankly hilarious. It is, however, difficult to single out specific individuals as actors were, without exception, extremely well cast. It must also be noted that the chemistry between the characters had a decidedly positive impact on the audience; all members of the cast were remarkably comfortable with each other, in turn putting the spectators at their ease.

'Keep it Gay' was hugely entertaining: riotous, colourful and rather delicious. 'I Wanna Be a Producer' was another exceptional number. The choreography must also be given a mention, being interesting and highly varied: I had not expected to witness such a high level of tap-dance, nor had I realised that walking-sticks and writing-desks could be so versatile! Indeed, apart from a slight mishap with a zimmer frame in Act One, the movement was tight and highly polished. Despite my best efforts, I failed to spot any difficulties with lines and could not fault the use of stage space. Actors, dancers and members of the chorus clearly knew their roles inside out and executed them with professional confidence and enthusiasm. Costumes too had been selected with a striking attention to detail: polished shoes for the men, highly matching outfits for the women; not a hair was out of place.

‘The Producers’ was quite frankly a resounding success, making for a wholly enjoyable evening. I for one sang 'Springtime for Hitler' pretty much all the way home.


Louis Trup

at 18:45 on 1st Nov 2013



Everyone loves a bit of Granny sex, and ‘The Producers’ has plenty of it. Using all the Playhouse has to offer, the show has raised the bar for Oxford musicals.

Following Max Bialystock (Jack Herlihy) and Leo Bloom (Stephen Hyde) in their ridiculous scheme to try and create a Broadway flop, the audience is transported into the world behind the bright lights. One cannot overstate the empire expectations which surround any production of this scale, but everyone involved truly brought the atmosphere of New York (and Berlin) to the stage.

The orchestra are well organised and produced a beautiful sound throughout – no mean feat with musical influences ranging from Samba to Kletzmer – providing a strong basis upon which the actors could really stretch their musical and dancing abilities. In numbers such as ‘Springtime for Hitler’, the performance was almost flawless, thanks to real talent not only in the main characters, but also in all the chorus, both singing and dancing. The quality of the whole cast is truly the greatest quality of this production, and you can bet your bottom dollar that we will see many of those who sang and danced in the chorus to be the leading ladies and gentlemen in future Oxford musicals.

Philip Rigley gave a sterling performance as Franz Liebkind, playing the Neo-Nazi playwright with the perfect concoction of enthusiasm, emotion, and Germanic razzmatazz. The pairing of James Skinner and Alexander Wickens as director Roger de Bris and assistant Carmen Ghia was a delight, providing some of the funniest overly-camp acting and dancing seen since last years’ medic’s pantomime. ‘Keep it Gay’ is one of the stand-out numbers in the production, and is where Skinner and Wickens show their talents in a most fabulous fashion. Throughout the production, the chemistry between Herlihy and Hyde is constantly evolving and engaging, and despite a few slow dialogues, they have managed to capture Bialystock and Bloom’s contrasting natures very well. Herlihy’s performance in the song ‘Betrayed’ is enthralling, dominating the auditorium as he recalls the entirety of the play.

Throughout the performance, the choreography stands out. It is always hard to get singer/actors to add the third threat and not look lost on stage, but all the performers work well together, most notably in ‘Along came Bialy’, where 13 grannies prance around with accuracy and hilarity. The eight person dancing chorus alongside Eleanor Shaw (Ulla) truly steps up in the tap number.

A hilarious performance which uses the depth of talent of the entire cast to keep the laughs coming. The older ladies in the audience at the Thursday matinee loved it, and so did I.


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