What a way to celebrate an anniversary! Ninety years since Kelso Amateur Operatic Society (KAOS) staged its inaugural production – Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado – the town’s Tait Hall is rocking this week to the mirth and magic of Mel Brooks’ hit musical The Producers.
And over those nine decades, it is hard to imagine a show has ever resonated as much with a Kelso audience as it did for the 400 or so lucky enough to be there on Tuesday’s opening night.
With boundless enthusiasm and impeccable comic timing, a company at the very top of its game extracts every last ounce of entertainment from the laugh out loud tale of fading, unscrupulous Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Tony Jackson) and his accountant stooge-cum-partner Leo Bloom (Alan Thomson) as they set out to convince the elderly ladies of New York to unwittingly invest $2million in their latest production, convinced it will be a flop and close after one performance.
To achieve this, the pair scrape the barrel of poor taste, seeking out the worst script (Springtime for Hitler – “a love letter to the Fuhrer”) the worst director and the worst actors.
But their plans are thwarted when the 1959 Broadway audience mistakes this awfulness for satire and loves the show, triggering, in sequence, our protagonists’ despair, an unlikely romance, redemption for the later incarcerated impresarios and a happy ending. The challenge of presenting what is effectively a show within a show is beautifully handled by director Pooee Pitman who galvanises a largely young cast to fully immerse itself in the blissful fun of it all.
Stand out performances abound, not least from Tony Jackson as the unctuous but likeable Max with a penchant for casting couch negotiations and an insatiable desire, at any price, for fame and fortune.
As the not-so-hapless Leo, Alan Thomson is a revelation, taking his character on a totally believable journey of self discovery – from comfort blanket dependent neurotic to compassionate family man and good friend.
Now both in their sixth-year with KAOS, Jackson and Thomson – strong singers, excellent actors – are a double act to relish.
As camper-than-camp director Roger De Bris, Ian Fairnington is an incongruous joy, while Rich Millan, as the Nazi-loving pigeon-fancying writer of Springtime, has us rolling in the aisles.
The humour is underpinned by Brooks’ability to create stereotypes which are so over the top as to be inoffensive – a nuance fully exploited in this production.
So we clap, sing and laugh with gusto during Hitler’s favourite song and dance number, Roger’s exuberant Keep it Gay and (a personal favourite) the Busby Berkeley inspired zimmer routine from the old ladies. Classic!
Strong cameos, a superbly drilled orchestra under the baton of Heather Cattanach and dance routines from Avril Murray which run the gamut of the Tiller Girls and Max Wall all contribute to a superb evening of entertainment.
The Producers continues its run at the Tait Hall until Saturday (curtain up at 7.30pm) with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.