Gallery: My funniest show

The Producers, one of the most eagerly awaited-comedy musicals to be performed in Ipswich this year, is set to take the Regent Theatre by storm.

James Marston

The Producers, one of the most eagerly awaited-comedy musicals to be performed in Ipswich this year, is set to take the Regent Theatre by storm. Today, as part of our behind-the-scenes coverage of the show, JAMES MARSTON speaks to show director James Hayward.

IT is one of the funniest musical comedies ever to take to the stage.

Containing unrepentant Nazis, sex-starved little old ladies, an outrageously camp choreographer, a couple of crooks and a Swedish blonde bombshell, The Producers is to be performed by Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society (IODS) later this year.

The Producers tells the story of failing theatre producer Max Bialystock and former accountant Leo who concoct a plan to raise two million dollars for a theatrical production that must fail.

To be sure of a flop, they choose a musical with cheerful numbers about Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. After the failure of the show, Max and Leo will take the surplus cash and go to Rio but unfortunately for them, the production is a rip-roaring success.

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Rehearsals are now well under way and the show is being directed by James Hayward.

James said: “The Producers was a major hit musical comedy. It won a raft of awards and it is a musical comedy in every sense of both words. It is the funniest show I have ever worked on.”

James, who works as a solicitor in Ipswich, has been involved with IODS since the 1980s appearing on stage most notably as King Arthur in Camelot and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls as well as playing various other roles in other shows.

He has directed shows for the society for a number of years including West Side Story, Titanic and Gotta Sing Gotta Dance.

The theatre is a life-long passion.

He said: “I first appeared on stage when I was seven with the Co-op Saturday morning club. I love the way theatre makes people laugh and cry.

“I enjoy directing and I like making people laugh. It is a tremendous feeling whether you are on stage amusing people or directing actors in comedy.”

James, 55, said he enjoyed the Mel Brooks films such as Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.

He added: “The Producers is not only a good comedy but also a homage to Broadway with some fantastic musical numbers. I have gone back and watched the 1968 Mel Brooks film which the show is modelled on.

“In many ways our comedy tastes have changed since then but it is important to go back to source materials.”

James said there is not as much room for manoeuvre in The Producers as other shows.

He said: “What you can do with the show is prescribed. Where you put actors and how they react is dictated by the script. The show is tightly written.

“This is partly because it is a comedy and the script is designed to get a laugh every three lines. The actors have to say the lines in the right way to get the comedy right.

“Comedy is far more difficult than other forms of entertainment; it is the hardest of all.”

It is during the rehearsal process when actors develop their skills.

James added: “You can't play around in any way but you can bring out the comic abilities of the actors. I don't want the actor playing Max Bialystock simply to copy previous actors.

“I am asking them to bring something of themselves to the show. That's my role and part of the rehearsal process.”

With a plan in mind, James said each rehearsal allows actors and directors to work together as the show takes shape.

He added: “Any director when given a text would see the show in his head and map it out in that way. You have to be prepared to make changes if something doesn't work or listen if the actors have a better idea. It is a consensual approach and an organic process. I really enjoy seeing the show spring off the page.”

IODS have a back catalogue of a number of high-profile shows and are the only amateur society to perform in Ipswich's Regent Theatre.

James said: “Standards are very high and the line between professional and amateur theatre is blurred nowadays.

“IODS has people who have had professional training and people who have gone on from IODS to work as professional entertainers. The musicians are also professionals and the sets are professionally built. There is a saying that amateurs rehearse until they get it right and professionals rehearse until they never get it wrong, I like to think that IODS aspires to the latter of those aims.”

With a cast of 30 James is busy two and sometimes three nights a week at rehearsals - it is a process that requires significant dedication and commitment.

He said: “The director also has to oversee a number of other aspects of the production including the props, the stage management, costumes and liaise with the choreographer and musical director who are both important parts of the production team and may well have their own ideas about the show.

“It is not an onerous task but it is very involved.

“Sir Ian Mckellen said the most important keys to success of a theatrical enterprise is whether the director can throw a good party- I shall be throwing mine on the first night.”

The Producers will be performed at the Regent from June 17 to 20. Tickets are �16 and �14 and are available from the Ipswich Regent box office on 01473 433100.

Are you a fan of Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society? What do you think of their shows? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to

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