The Producers by the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

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In 2017, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre went through several exciting changes. Firstly, the charitable board which runs the theatre purchased the building from York St John University, securing the future of the wonderful art deco venue, and secondly, the board gave the go ahead to their very first, fully- staged fundraising musical, which goes up next week.

Simon Charles Photography

Simon Charles Photography

Featuring a cast of all ages and abilities drawn from the local community, The Producers is a raucous and witty Mel Brooks musical (based on the film of the same name from 1967), which was so popular when it hit Broadway in 2001 that it still holds the record for the greatest number of Tony Awards for a musical, an amazing 12 wins. The plot follows down-and-out producer Max Bialystock and his mild-mannered accountant Leo Bloom as they attempt to get rich by over-selling interests and putting on “the biggest flop in history”. They find the worst play ever written, hire the worst director in town, raise two million dollars, and open on Broadway with a “guaranteed to close in one night beauty” – Springtime for Hitler. However, something inexplicably goes right for the pair, and we get to follow the characters dealing with the hilarious fall out. Brooks refers to The Producers as “an equal opportunities offender” – it is a hilarious, clever and keen satire and send -up of many theatre traditions, character stereotypes and one certain historical baddie.

Image: Little Old Ladies out to impress Max Bialystock

Simon Charles Photography

Simon Charles Photography

The team behind this production has been working hard to bring the spirit of the show to life on a fundraising budget. Heading the production team as director is local business owner Kayleigh Oliver, a 2012 masters graduate of The University of York TFTV Department and performing regular of several York companies. Kayleigh says of the experience of The Producers that:

“The experience of leading this show has been fantastic. From absolutely nothing, we have brought together a performing cast of 27, going from auditions in October to a full musical spectacular in February. The show is of an incredible standard, and this is testimony to the talent and hard work of the community cast. There are so many great performers on the York theatre circuit, and it has been a pleasure to work with many of the regulars in this hilarious production, where we literally have never stopped laughing.”

Kayleigh will be supported by regular performer Alex Schofield as assistant director, and by Kendra Bush as choreographer. Taking up the baton as musical director is University of York music graduate, musician and teacher Jessica Douglas; Jess has put together an 11 piece orchestra to give life to the brilliant score.

Image: Franz forces Leo and Max to sign the “sacred Seigfried Oath” promising not to dishonour Hitler (feat. Jonny Holbek, Andrew Isherwood and Alex Schofield)

Simon Charles Photography

Simon Charles Photography

On stage, if you’ve seen other shows in the York area, you are bound to recognise some of the names and faces. Playing the pivotal role of Max Bialystock is Andrew Isherwood, Rob Fisher plays opposite him as gentle Leo Bloom, and Jonny Holbeck is taking the role of highly strung ex-Nazi Franz Leibkind. Playing exuberant theatre director Roger DeBris is Larry Gibson, opposite Martin Lay as Carmen Ghia, Roger’s common-law assistant, and Swedish bombshell Ulla will be played by Nikki Ainscough. The talented ensemble plays sometimes up to five and six roles each, and features, among many others, Mark Simmons, Susan Blenkiron, Amy Lacy and Stuart Sellens.

Image: Finale Act 1 - full company

Simon Charles Photography

Simon Charles Photography

The Producers is running from 8th – 10th February at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, 7:30pm, with a 2:30pm matinee on the 10th. All proceeds from the show go straight back to the theatre, and will be used for improving access for all and for improving front of house facilities, to make sure that the theatre community in York can benefit for years to come. Tickets for the show are going quickly, especially since the group entertained locals during an open rehearsal at the theatre for Residents’ Festival, so we recommend booking to avoid disappointment! Tickets are available from www.josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Image: Franz and Roger point out to Leo that it’s “Bad Luck To Say Good Luck On Opening Night” (feat. Jonny Holbek, Larry Gibson and Rob Fisher)