Pan Productions’ The Producers

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MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist Haritha Shan doing the makeup for Safia Hanifah (Ulla)

I spent yesterday afternoon at KLPAC interviewing MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist Haritha Shan & Nell Ng of Pan Productions. MAC is the makeup sponsor of Pan Productions’ The Producers, a Mel Brooks musical. More on the interviews next week. I had a backstage glimpse of the thespians being made up by MAC’s team.

This musical has been given a local twist and flavour by Pan Productions. The leading lady is Ulla (that’s only her first name, the rest of it is longer than most European royalties) who is sexy, seductive and shows off some compelling Bollywood dance moves.

The basic premise of the musical revolves around Max Bialystock (played by Peter Ong) and his accountant, Leopold Bloom (played by Vince Chong). The former convinces the latter to join him in discovering the worst musical possible which is guaranteed to close after opening night, after which they will run off with their investors’ (all old ladies for whom menopause certainly doesn’t mean men on pause) money. Malaysia could do with a few more musicals which don’t shy away from old ladies with needs and urges, haha! After all, being old doesn’t mean everything has to come to a stop.

The unlikely (where Max appears as if he is game for anything, Leopold looks like he’s rather uptight and uncomfortable) duo soon decide on producing Springtime For Hitler, written by a zany and probably delusional Hitler supporter known as Franz Liebkind (played  by Alfred Loh complete with an excellent German accent) and look for the worst possible director. They find their director in Roger De Bris (played by Alizakri Alias) who appeared rather butch in a gown. I felt that the best scene was the one where Max and Leopold met Roger De Bris and his assistant, Carmen Ghia (played by Joshua Gui who deserved the Best Supporting Actor Award, if there was one for musicals in Malaysia). The entire scene was so gay and camp that it was the next best thing to being in the room with The Village People! Joshua Gui played the part to perfection from the way he talked to the way he stood or walked off in a diva huff. There’s some attitude! I don’t know who the actor was but there was this guy who appeared shirtless in shorts and a turban. That scene was so memorable for celebrating campness. The actors have to be applauded for taking on such flamboyant roles and doing it with such panache too.

Hours after watching the musical, I find it hard to get these words from that scene out of my mind:

“So the rule is, when mounting a play….

Keep it funny, keep it sunny,

Keep it gayyyyyyy!”

Some people will find the jokes more hilarious and LOL funny than others. I didn’t LOL once but then I am more accustomed to Brit wit than American slapstick humour of which there is plenty in this production. I’m glad that quite a few in the audience were so obviously enjoying themselves. The lady behind me and in the row in front of me laughed so loud that it almost drowned out some of the lyrics and dialogue.

The backdrops were simple yet effective in delivering a not-so-subtle message such as a “wall” with Michelangelo’s David statue and the doorknob strategically placed on David’s nether regions & a closet which the blatantly gay Roger and Carmen hide in when the cops come a-calling all added to the humour of the production. Some set pieces are so covetable, I wish I had the red bling-bling phone Carmen had in his hands the first time he appears.

I won’t go too much into the storyline as you have probably read about it in the local papers but I will say that this is a musical really worth watching. The music is quite infectious and you wonder if only Hitler had been as gay as what was depicted in Pan Productions’ The Producers, a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering would have been avoided and there certainly would have been no WWII!.

Watch The Producers at KLPAC, Jalan Stratchan, off Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur from April 26 to May 11 at 8.30pm (Tuesday to Saturday) and 3pm (Saturday and Sunday). Tickets are priced at RM125, RM105 and RM85. Call the KLPAC Box Office at 03-4047 9000 to book tickets.

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