Video: Achtung! It's a romp at the Regent

SHOW business, gays, Nazis and ridiculous accents - it's a heady mix. An award-winning comedy musical is coming to town which is set to take Ipswich's Regent Theatre by storm.

James Marston

SHOW business, gays, Nazis and ridiculous accents - it's a heady mix. An award-winning comedy musical is coming to town which is set to take Ipswich's Regent Theatre by storm. Today we begin our coverage telling the behind-the-scenes story of the Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society's production of The Producers. Entertainments reporter JAMES MARSTON and photographer LUCY TAYLOR went along to the first rehearsal.

ENTHUSIASM is running high at the Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society (IODS) - there's a new show to do.

Written by Mel Brooks, The Producers will be performed by the society from June 17 to June 20.


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The theatre is booked, the deposits are paid, contracts have been signed and tickets have already been sold for what is expected to be a popular show.

Now it's up to the society members and the production team to get down to the hard work of rehearsing, preparing, rehearsing again and getting ready to deliver the top quality performance standard modern audiences demand.

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It's no easy task, there will be ups and downs, highs and lows, triumphs and tantrums and your Evening Star will be there all the way through.

The costumes, the characters, the cast, the crew - we'll be reporting on every aspect of putting on a show over the coming months as IODS get ready for opening night.

But every journey must start somewhere and this one began on Tuesday night at Ipswich Labour Club, in Silent Street.

Director James Hayward begins by outlining the show's plot and highlights and talking about the auditions later this month.

He said: “It's New York in 1959 and theatre producer Max Bialystock was once the king of Broadway, but now all his shows close on opening night.

“An accountant called Leo Bloom visits Bialystock's office to do his accounts, and innocently remarks that under the right circumstances, a dishonest man could make more money out of producing a flop than a hit show.”

Bloom and Bialstock join forces to put on a flop, between them they discover the ultimate bad taste musical Springtime for Hitler written by fervent Nazi Franz Liebkind.

James said: “Springtime for Hitler is a 'gay romp with Adolf and Eva in Berchtesgaden'. They go to meet Franz on his rooftop where he's parading as a storm trooper and they pledge their allegiance to Hitler.”

Other characters include the outrageous director Rogers De Bris and his camp assistant Carman Ghia.

James said he is looking for a strong female lead to play the part of Ulla.

“She's a Swedish bombshell with a Swedish accent. She needs to be a strong comic actor.”

James then talks about the little old ladies who tap dance with zimmer frames who provide another comic moment.

He added: “Of course Springtime For Hitler turns out to be a hit.”

Then it is the turn of musical director Mike Wren.

He enthuses about the musical score.

He said: “This is a stunning show and there's a lot of complex vocal parts both for soloists and for the ensemble.

“It is 100 miles an hour all the way through and the vehicle for the show is the music, it is like Tom and Jerry on stage.

“It is also important to mention that the show is very Jewish in its humour and that is reflected in the music, there are lots of Yiddish themes and ideas and motifs that enhance the comedic value of the show.

“There's lots for everybody to do.”

For the third and final member of the production triumvirate, choreographer David Hockley, The Producers is a dream commission.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted to be doing this show. I love this sort of music and this type of dancing. It is a brilliant show.

“Springtime for Hitler will be the audition piece, you'll sing, then do a bit of tap dancing, then some show dancing. If you can't tap fellas, it is not necessary and you won't have to in the audition. There's lots of different dancing styles in the show so don't be put off.

“I'd love to get 12 tapping girls though.”

And to get started there's no time like the present.

Scores are distributed and the voices are warmed up.

The first strains of Springtime For Hitler - the show's huge show-stopping cast number - are played and a few tentative voices join in.

And it's begun.

- James and Lucy are both members of the society.

- It is not too late to take part in The Producers, for more information about the society call membership secretary Margaret Mudd on 01473 747034.

- 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 IODS? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The Hopefuls:-

Laura Dickons, 26, of Bell Lane, Kesgrave.

“I've been in the society since Titanic in 2007. It keeps me fit and it's good fun socially. I'd love to play the part of Ulla but I'd have to grow ten inches I think so if I don't get a part I'll be happy being in the chorus, there's lots of dancing.

“I think it's a brilliant show with loads of comedy and it will appeal to all ages.”

Adam Stewart, 33, of Oaks Road, Bury St Edmunds.

“This will be my first show with IODS. I have performed in Bury St Edmunds before. I thought I'd come along as I want to do The Producers. I love the show and it looks like it will be a lot of fun. I want to be in the chorus or anything I'm offered.”

Stephen Watt, 29, of Rapier Street, Ipswich.

“My first show with IODS was four years ago. I want to find out about The Producers. I think it is a hilarious show and I think it will be a blast to be involved with.

“I don't really know which part I'm going to try for yet. I want to try things out and see what happens.”

Margaret Mudd, 57, of Henley Rise, Ipswich.

“I've been in the society since 1965. I saw The Producers in London and loved Mel Brooks' sense of humour.

“There's plenty of old ladies in the show with zimmer frames and I'd like to be in the chorus.

“Taking part takes you out of yourself and gives you a wonderful family of friends.”

Sharna Simmons, 21, of Nacton Road, Ipswich.

“I've been in the society for five years and I think this is a great show and really funny. I am going to go for the part of Ulla, I think it's a great part and I love comedy, she's the leading lady.”

Karen Wilding, 38, of Bailey Avenue, Ipswich.

“I've been in IODS since 1984. This is a really fun show to do and it looks like there will be lots of laughs. I don't have a part in mind but I'd like to do the tap dancing.”

The Characters:-

Max Bialystock, 50s

A once successful Broadway producer. Though still a great showman, he's reduced to financing his shows by defrauding little old ladies. He's a rogue but immensely likeable, and has lots of charisma and comic harm. Very much a larger than life character.

The part needs a really strong character actor with excellent comic timing who can establish an instant rapport with the audience. Physically, he is “portly” but must be able to move well. A strong singing voice and bags of stamina essential.

Vocal Range: Baritone/Tenor, up to G

Leo Bloom, 30s

A timid, uptight accountant stuck in a monotonous and uninteresting job who after meeting Max Bialystock, partners up with him and turns into a Broadway producer. Eventually, he finds his confidence and he is the one their beautiful Swedish secretary falls for.

A very good comic actor is required, who can play the wide-eyed innocent in contrast to Max's man of the world. Must have the “likeability” factor, and be able to put across the manic side of the character. Physically, he is slight (think Stan Laurel to Bialystock's Oliver Hardy). He has more musical numbers than any other character, and must be able to sing and move well (including tap).

Vocal range: Baritone/Tenor, up to G

Ulla, 20s to early 30s

A gorgeous Swedish blonde who becomes the PA to Bialystock & Bloom. She also takes a leading role in “Springtime for Hitler”.

She must have comic ability and be able to produce a Swedish accent. Although very sexy, there is an innocent quality about her - like some of Marilyn Monroe's characters she doesn't seem to be (or perhaps pretends she isn't) aware of quite how attractive she is or her effect on men. Physically, she is tall and long-legged. Must be a good dancer and singer.

Vocal range: “Belt” voice to E flat

Franz Liebkind, mid 30s to late 40s

A pigeon-fancier and author of “Springtime for Hitler”. Totally deranged, he hero worships Hitler and believes that he himself served as a soldier of the Third Reich. Another strong character actor with comic ability needed here. He must be able to sing and move well and do a ridiculous German accent.

Vocal range: Baritone (up to G)

Roger de Bris, late 30s to late 40s

A former Broadway chorus boy turned director/choreographer (unsuccessful). he is Max's choice to direct “Springtime for Hitler”. A vain, highly temperamental and capricious “prima donna”. He thinks he is much more talented and sophisticated than he actually is.

This part needs an actor with a flair for the outlandish and theatrical. Again, excellent comic timing is called for as well as a strong singing voice and dancing ability (including some tap).

Vocal range: High baritone (up to solid G).

Carman Ghia, late 20s to early 40s

The wildly flamboyant gay assistant to Roger de Bris. The part is written very much as a stereotypical New York “Musical Theatre Queen”, but the actor must be able to play a “comedy” gay without being offensive - a big challenge. A talent for quirky physical comedy is required.

Vocal range: High baritone/tenor - up to G, with high falsetto

SS Officer, 20s to 30s: The soloist in Springtime for Hitler. A typical young German, tall and fair, with an excellent tenor voice and a good stage presence.

Vocal range: Tenor (up to A)

Hole Me-Touch Me, 70s or 80s: A wealthy old lady with a very developed sexual appetite! One of Max's financial backers.

A strong comic presence will be needed from an actress who can play old and sex-mad at the same time.

Ensemble, various: Little Old Ladies, Usherettes, First Nighters, Accountants, Mr Marks (Leo's boss), Showgirls, Roger's “Artistic” Team, Storm troopers, “Churchill and Stalin” (both tap), Sergeant and Policemen, convicts, Judge and court officials, etc.

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