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Altitude Theatre set to soar with The Producers

Culture

Only months after coming into existence, fledgling Brisbane production company Altitude Theatre is set to make its mainstage theatrical musical debut at Brisbane Powerhouse with an adaptation of Broadway hit The Producers.

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The Mel Brooks-penned stage production centres around a neurotic accountant, Leo Bloom, who teams up with fading Broadway producer May Mialystock to devise a brilliant money-making scam: to produce the worst musical ever to hit Broadway, “guaranteed” to close on opening night.

Altitude Theatre is the brainchild of performer and director Joseph Simons and his producer and set designer husband Adam Gardnir and The Producers will the company’s first mainstage musical theatre production.

Its adaptation of The Producers will be directed and choreographed by Simons, with musical direction by Jacqui Devereux, set designs by Josh McIntosh and costumes by Madeleine Barlow.

“It’s a brassy ensemble comedy that will work beautifully at the Powerhouse,” Gardnir told InQueensland.

It was a sentiment shared by Simons, who felt it was the perfect production for audiences who might be returning to the theatre for the first time in months.

“Following the challenges of 2020 people are eager to get out and celebrate with each other, to laugh and to be entertained by astonishing artists, and that’s exactly what The Producers offers,” he said.

The cast is comprised of some of Australia’s most accomplished and recognisable musical theatre stars, with Matt Young (A Chorus Line, West Side Story, On The Town) taking on the role of Max Bialystock, Mark Hill (Muriel’s Wedding the Musical, Mary Poppins) playing Leo Bloom, Rachael Ward (Chicago, Cats) as Ulla, and James Lee (The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables) as Roger De Bris.

US-born, Brisbane-based actor Young was a member of the original Australian cast of The Producers that debuted in 2003 and said he was excited to be playing such a pivotal role in the musical.

“I was in the ensemble cast so I’m thrilled to be stepping up into the lead role,” Young told InQueensland.

“I’m also a little daunted because obviously Reg Livermore played it here and I’ve seen Jason Alexander play the role in LA and of course Nathan Lane is very well known for it, so there are some big names to follow but I’m thrilled to be given the opportunity.

“But strangely enough, as we started our preliminary work with it, [I discovered] the role suits me to a tee, it’s something that is very accessible to me.

“I’m really excited to show a different version of Max perhaps than people who know the movie have seen – I’ll be bringing in a bit more of my vaudevillian musical theatre roots, so a little bit of Groucho Marx and everything that I’ve learnt over my 30-year career in Broadway musicals. I’m going to pull every trick out of my hat for this one.”

Ward said she was similarly thrilled to have scored the role of Ulla, a role made famous by Cady Huffman on Broadway and Uma Thurman in the film adaption. by Chloe Dallimore in the original Australian production.

“I’m so excited to be doing The Producers, especially off the back of this year, which has been a very tough one for the whole world, but particularly for the arts industry and to have the opportunity, currently, to perform at full capacity in my hometown is something I feel very grateful for,” Ward told InQueensland.

“Obviously I’ve never worked with Altitude Theatre before, so all you can go on is your gut reaction but I just remember when the production got presented to me, I was instantly intrigued by it and excited by it and thought, I’ll put myself out there and go for it.

“Every bit of communication I’ve had with Joseph and Adam and throughout the audition process, you could tell they were just so excited and passionate about what they do, they have a true investment in the company and in the art and so, I’m, I’m really, honestly, I think it’s going to be a really wonderful because a lot of heart and a lot of passion is going into it.

Yeah I have faith and I feel that they have faith in me. So I feel like there’s a trust there which is, which is a good foundation, I feel for these beginning stages.

Simons said Altitude Theatre was determined to put its own stamp on The Producers while also treating the source material with the reverence it deserved.

“We’re not looking to recreate or to copy original Broadway designs, we’re here to tell stories in new, clever, nimble and exciting ways,” he said.

Gardnir said when it came to casting the production, he and Simons were spoilt for choice.

“When we did the auditions for The Producers, 127 people auditioned and there are only about 20 roles in the show – we could have easily cast it three or four times over,” he said.

“The quality was exceptional, a lot of key artists who perhaps normally live in Melbourne or Sydney are back home in Brisbane, which is great.”

Brisbane Powerhouse artistic director Kris Stewart said the venue was keen to increase its commitment to local independent musical theatre, “especially musical theatre made by Brisbane artists and performers for Brisbane audiences”.

The Producers will be the first mainstage production we’ve hosted of this nature since we did probably Joe For PM a couple of years ago and it’s something that we hope to expand more on going forward,” he told InQueensland

“The idea of musical theatre, but with a Brisbane Powerhouse spin, where it’s sort of local and fun and irreverent, is something we’re very focused on.

“It’s always been more about the ‘Brisbane’ in Brisbane Powerhouse for us, we are actually much more interested in that than we are touring works from interstate, so for us, this sort of production is what we really feel is the purpose of the space.”

The Producers runs at Powerhouse Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse, from March 4-13.  Visit the website for tickets and more details.

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