Director Matt Smith and Musical Director Serena Cann have brought us a worthy and energetic interpretation of this Mel Brooks’ typically satirical musical. The high points are certainly worth the price of the ticket.
The central relationship between Max and Leo was well managed. Sam Davy was brash and loud as the failing producer, Max, and he powered his way through the big numbers with gusto. At times the audience missed his dialogue – and some of his gags – as he dropped volume, yet they were right on his side as Max connived his way to get the funds for his Broadway launch.
Kristian Latella was awkwardly humble and vulnerable as Leo, and as such was a good foil for Max. He showed the required growth of the character’s confidence, and in doing so, sang his important songs with a telling sincerity. His lead in ‘Til Him was a fine example of that.
Veteran performer and man-of-the-theatre Barry Hill clearly relished his role as Roger. He commanded attention whenever on stage and delighted the audience with his one liners and big songs. Alongside him, urging and abetting him all the way, was Ben Todd as the flighty, irrepressible Carmen. Together, their valuable contribution to the production brought much joy and humour.
Gus Smith as Franz Liebkind, the unreconstructed Nazi, provided for us the essence of the production’s crazy satire. He shone with the songs In Old Bavaria and Guten Tag Hop-Clop, which he sang both truly and yet with a funny, fervid conviction.
Lucy Trewin played Ulla with decided flair, providing focus for the two male leads in their various exploits.
This is an unusual musical with memorable moments here and there, while the concluding scenes are less purposeful than some of the earlier ones, such as the major show-stopper Springtime For Hitler, title song of the producers’ intended – yet misjudged – big flop. Because of that, it’s difficult to sustain the momentum and intensity through to the end. This company made a pretty good fist of doing that, although the pace waned a little with a couple of sluggish scene changes late in the piece.
The ensemble was well-rehearsed and a very good support to the songs and action. The principal dancers were tight and slick in their routines and the sprightly Little Old Ladies were highly entertaining.
This show pokes fun not only at the Nazis but also at other conventions, not the least of which are those surrounding Broadway and its types. Marie Clark’s production makes those observations, and points those barbs, clearly and with purpose.