The Producers

Court One, Christchurch

24/11/2007 - 16/02/2008

Production Details

Book by Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan
Music & lyrics by Mel Brooks
Directed and Choreographed by: Sandra Rasmussen
Musical Direction: Richard Marrett


On November 24 the lights will go up on the funniest – and most ambitious – musical The Court Theatre has ever staged: Mel Brooks’ record-breaking The Producers. This New Zealand première mixes broad comedy, outrageous characters and punchy one-liners with elaborate costumes and huge production numbers in a night of musical mirth that will burst onto The Court’s stage in Christchurch.

When unscrupulous Broadway producer Max Bialystock (played by Stephen Ray) and nervous accountant Leo Bloom (Cameron Douglas) realise that they can make more money with a flop than with a hit, they set out to put on “the worst show ever written”, pocket the investors’ cash and head to Rio. Being a Mel Brooks story, of course, things don’t proceed exactly as planned…

Brooks’ adaptation of his 1968 movie was a Broadway smash: setting a new record for single-day box office gross in 2001 (breaking it again in 2003) and winning an unprecedented twelve Tony Awards® including Best Musical and Best Original Score. With a record-breaking year of attendance at The Court Theatre, the stage is set for this epic undertaking.

Sandra Rasmussen, no stranger to “big” musicals after last year’s phenomenally successful Guys and Dolls, returned to find directing and choreographing The Producers a new experience altogether. The range of crazy characters, the snappy dialogue, and the fast paced scene changes (one taking the audience from an oppressive accountancy firm to a full-fledged Broadway fantasy); the scale is unlike anything achieved by any other professional New Zealand theatre. Rasmussen explains, “It’s been a mammoth undertaking – but one full of laughs all the way”. Musical Director Richard Marrett adds “It is a musical so rich, that at every step of the way we’ve marvelled at its wit, intelligence, satire and extravagance.”

Local entertainer and two-time World of Wearable Art finalist Patrick Duffy and partner Jane Diamond found the task of designing elaborate costumes for a musical (as well as a musical within a musical) a welcome challenge. “Everyone has been working full tilt to have everything perfect for the première,” says Duffy, “it’s been a total team effort”. From wardrobe to workshop; every department at The Court has been full of dedicated staff relishing the opportunity to create Broadway magic in The Producers New Zealand debut.

When Mel Brooks’ crazy world of singing pigeons, Swedish bombshells, Zimmer-frame-dancing little old ladies and a chorus line of singing Nazis comes to life on The Court’s stage on November 24, it will be the culmination of over a year’s planning, five weeks rehearsal and concerted effort from countless people on and off stage to ensure The Producers opens with a bang. The result will be a “boom” of musical hilarity New Zealand audiences have never seen before. As Mel Brooks put it: “If you’ve got it, flaunt it”.

THE PRODUCERS: A New Mel Brooks Musical

Directed and Choreographed by:  Sandra Rasmussen
Musical Direction:  Richard Marrett

Venue: The Court Theatre, Christchurch

Production Dates: 24 November – 16 February

Performance times: 6pm Monday / Thursday; 7:30pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (no show Sundays).
2pm matinee Saturday 1 December. Additional Saturday matinees to be confirmed.

Tickets: Adults $43, Senior Citizens $35, Tertiary Students $25, School Children $20, Group discount $35 
Bookings:  The Court Theatre, 20 Worcester Boulevard; 963 0870 or

Max Bialystock:  Steven Ray 
Leo Bloom:  Cameron Douglas 
Roger De Bris:  Keith Adams 
Ulla:  Sia Trokenheim 
Franz Liebkind:  Jon Pheloung 
Carmen Ghia:  Jonathan Martin 
Usherettes:  Lynda Milligan & Sarah Kelly
Hold Me - Touch Me (Old lady):  Claire Dougan 
Mr. Marks:  Simon Goudie 
Bryan:  Michael Greenwood

Kevin:  Kyle Chuen
Roger's Team:
Scott:  Matt Hudson

Shirley:  Claire Dougan

Jack LaPidus:  Kyle Chuen
Donald Dinsmore:  LeRoi Kippen
Jason Green:  Michael Greenwood
Lead Storm trooper:  Nicolas Kyle

Other roles played by members of the Ensemble (listed alphabetically):
Kylie Alexander, Kyle Chuen, Zara Cormack, Claire Dougan, Simon Goudie, Michael Greenwood, Torum Heng, Markus Hoetjes, Matt Hudson, Sarah Kelly, LeRoi Kippen, Nicolas Kyle, Jonathan Martin, Anna Meaclem, Lynda Milligan, Laura O'Loughlin, Elsie Edgerton-Till.

Set Design:  Tony Geddes
Lighting Design:  Grant Robertson
Sound Design:  Glen Ruske
Sound FX Design:  Geoff Nunn
Costume Design:  Patrick Duffy & Jane Diamond

Production Manager:  Chris O'Mahony 
Stage Manager:  Anna Dodgshun
Assistant Stage Manager:  Brendan Albrey
Workshop Supervisor:  Nigel Kerr
Wardrobe Supervisor:  Pamela Jones
Assistants to the choreographer:  Zara Cormack & Anna Meaclem
Operators:  Darren McKane & Stephen Compton
Properties: Nicki Evans, Louisa Davies, Helen Beswick, Mariana Philips
Set Construction:  Nigel Kerr, Maurice Kidd, Richard Daem, Richard van den Berg, Paul McCaffrey, AJ Thoms, Ford Polaschek, Simon Moultrie, Jason Collett, Peter Booth
Costume Construction: Pamela Jones, Emily Thomas, Beryl Hampson, Alistair McDougal, Bronwyn Corbet, Kate Watts, Annie Graham, Ella Duggan, Amanda Perry, Wendy Burton, Jenny Cunningham
Technical: Geoff Nunn, Darren McKane, Loki Stanley, Josh Major, Brendan Albrey, Daniel Christianson, Jonathan Coker, Darryn Woods, Chris Wiltshire, Taane Mateparae, Paul Taylor, Jen Wynands, Richard Wiltshire, Paul Johnson

Keyboard/Conductor: Richard Marrett (or Hamish Oliver)
Studio Orchestra:
Lucienne Shelley:  Violin
Janet Sim:  Cello
Tjasa Dykes:  Flute, Piccolo
Gretchen Dunsmore:  Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
David Cox:  French Horn
Gwyn Reynolds:  Saxophones
Tyme Marsters:  Trumpet
Scott Taitoko:  Trombone
Daniel Kennedy:  Drums

Richard Marrett:  Sequencing
Rob Mayes:  Recording Engineer
Richard Marrett plays Yamaha Instruments 

Theatre , Musical ,

2hrs 40 mins, incl. interval

A shot of pure theatrical adrenalin

Review by Lindsay Clark 25th Nov 2007

Broadway comes to Christchurch in superlative style with this New Zealand  premiere of the wildly successful musical adaptation of the 1968 film, since re-filmed. It is difficult to imagine a more exhilarating performance than the one which won a standing ovation on the opening night. Outrageous humour, dazzling energy and a bevy of engaging characters, played with great panache, has the audience applauding ecstatically, number after number, scene change after scene change, adding its own celebration to the cause – which is, of course, to have fun.

The directorial team responsible for last summer’s Guys and Dolls at Court understands the genre very well.  From snappy opening, brimful of New York pizzazz to pacey chorus work and the plucking of heart strings, they follow the golden rule: to keep it happy so that this gloriously pointed satire of the Broadway scene is, at the same time, one big party.

The story line kicks in with the unlikely collaboration of a sharp showbiz entrepreneur and the timid accountant who has come to audit his books. A  speculative strategy to overcome ‘loomsday’ deficits by ‘creative accounting’ is mentioned. Funds raised to float a show could be siphoned off as profit if it opened and closed on the same night – as has just happened with Max Bialystock’s Funny Boy, A New Musical of Hamlet. Leo Bloom, the accountant, bolts off on his high moral horse, after one of his recurring panic attacks, but it takes him only a wonderfully funny and inventive number back in his work scene for him to change his mind. He will follow his dream to become a producer and join in the scheme to stage a certain flop. The selected script with no redeeming feature, inescapably offensive, is Springtime for Hitler.

Away we go on the round of  nailing the rights (surprising revelations about Hitler), fundraising (susceptible old ladies), finding a director (wonderfully camp celeb games), auditioning (we would have liked it go on all night) to arrive breathlessly at interval. That leaves the brilliantly creative show within a show to open the second half before poor old Max ends in the clink, owing to its overnight success with the critics. Leo whisks away to Rio with the money and the girl, returning to plead, unsuccessfully at his buddy’s trial. Prison follows, but showbiz is irrepressible and Prisoners of Love soon brings release on the irrefutable grounds that when ‘hearts begin to dance’ things get better.

The double show offers opportunities and challenges to test nerve and skill. This company turns on a winning display of both. The set design, from an inspired Tony Geddes, and its manipulation, are a treat in themselves. Stylish and fluid the scene changes are part of  Sandra Rasmussen’s dashing choreography, underpinned by a lighting design (Grant Robertson) that takes advantage of the quirks of the Court stage and achieves a big Broadway feel in what is essentially a wide, shallow space. Costume design is another triumphant collaboration (Patrick Duffy and Jane Diamond), a wow factor and often a source of comic delight. Add sound and sound effect design from the capable Glenn Ruske and Geoff Nunn and there is a creative team with the talent to make Broadway happen here.

The actors do just that. Steven Ray has a wonderful time with the tricksy Max Bialystock, dancing through the role with the assurance of experience in every move and note. As Leo Bloom, the little man who gets to stand tall, Cameron Douglas brings his own vocal and physical spark. In their encounters they are matched by the colourful talents of  Keith Adams, the lithe and pouty director Roger De Bris, Sia Trokenheim as gorgeous Swedish cheesecake Ulla and Jon Pheloung, the ultimate Nazi caricature in Franz Liebkind. Seventeen tirelessly effervescent ensemble members support the whole performance.

What we have here is a shot of pure theatrical adrenalin. See it before the roof blows.  


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