Posts Tagged ‘Matthew Corner’

I really enjoy my outings to shows at London’s drama schools and music colleges. I’m a regular at RADA, Guildhall, LAMDA and the Royal Academy, but this was my first trip to ArtsEd. There’s something very energizing about watching young talent and with an audience containing a high proportion of friends, family and fellow students being positive and supportive, you’re virtually guaranteed a great atmosphere.

The Producers is a very ambitious show for a drama school. It’s a BIG show, with lots of big numbers and a few characters that seasoned actors cast at the right age find challenging, let alone younger actors. It might be unique in musical history that two star names cast as Max Bialystock never got as far as their opening nights (though in one case that may be more differences with the director rather than talent!).

Mel Brooks, with help from Thomas Meehan,  adapted his own non-musical film, even providing both the music and lyrics himself. It returned to the screen when the musical itself became a film, but it’s not so easy to re-create the excitement of musical theatre in a cinema as it is drama. In case you didn’t know, it’s the story of a Broadway producer who, inspired by a minor accountant, realises its possible to make a fortune from a flop. He recruits the accountant and sets about finding the worst play, a bad creative team and a talentless cast. The show is of course Springtime For Hitler.

They’ve done a terrific job here. The professional creative team (chosen because they are good, not bad!) of director Russell Labey, choreographer Drew McOnie and designer Colin Mayes have given the show a production which relishes the satire (of musicals themselves as well as Broadway and Nazis!), brings out every ounce of comedy and fizzes with energy throughout. The ensemble of 16 play multiple roles seamlessly (including the boys as the little old ladies as in the original production) and all six leads are excellent. Even MD Caroline Humphris makes her four-piece band sound big.

Matthew Corner and Piers Bate are a great double-act as Max & Leo (more chemistry between them than any other pairing I’ve seen – and I’ve seen a fair few!). Matthew isn’t aged by make-up, which is a good decision; his physical comedy, timing and singing are all outstanding. Piers mousey Leo is the perfect foil. I loved Simon Bamforth’s manic Franz – he got laughs where I don’t remember there being laughs! Lewis Kirk & Robbie Boyle are deliciously camp as director Roger DeBris and his PA Carmen Ghia. Melissa James (no relation!) is great as Ulla, with a lovely Marilyn Monroe moment in a white dress stage front aided by a understage blower!

I do love this show, and I enjoyed this as much as my earlier outings on Broadway and in the West End – and all for a fraction of the price in a small space in a college in Turnham Green. Well done, ArtsEd!

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