Last night I saw The Producers.
Some of you will know that I am a theatre snob. My formative experiences of theatre were mostly on Broadway and I spent my teenage years at a school where the theatre budget ran to five digits which rather spoiled me for anything second rate.
There was nothing second rate last night. It was the most professional show I’d seen in years. And that was despite several technical glitches (first stop outside the West End?), three serious brushes with the giggles on Joe Pasquale’s (Bloom’s) part, and an increasingly troublesome sore throat on Cory English’s (Bialystock’s) part.
Or maybe it was because of these things. A less professional company would have come undone at the seams. Instead, they kept it alive by a thousand perfect flourishes and sheer skill.
Once upon a time, I could be totally lost in a show. Despite many hours spent backstage and a fair working knowledge of most aspects of production, the actor’s role was always beyond me and therefore retained its mystery. So it was with some sadness that I realised that had changed last night.
Early in act two, Bialystock has a solo scene in the jail. In a song that takes most of ten minutes, he summarizes the whole show and wears his heart on his sleeve. It was a stunning performance. It was one of those moments when I thought, ‘this is what the theatre is all about.’
But even as I held my breath in admiration, I was sad. Because it was not Bialystock I was admiring, but Cory English. I knew what was going into the performance and what it was taking out of him. I knew that for this moment, he would have to pay.
It reminded me of Christmas Liturgies — of wild moments on feast days when every ounce of the priest’s energy is need to hold focus, to carry the weight of the liturgy, to bear truth.
It is a different sort of performance. A different sort of truth.
But it leaves me marvelling at Cory English, all the same.