THE curtain goes up next Thursday on the Joseph Rowntree Theatre's own first fully staged fund-raising musical, Mel Brooks's The Producers.

Last year, the JoRo went through two significant changes. First, the charitable board that runs the Haxby Road theatre bought the art deco building from York St John University, duly securing its future. Next, the board gave the go-ahead to this inaugural musical.

Director Kayleigh Oliver has assembled a cast of all ages and abilities from the York community to stage Brooks's raucous and witty musical, based on the 1967 film of the same name.

Opening on Broadway in 2001, the show holds the record for the most Tony Awards for a musical, no fewer than 12 awards. Brooks's plotline follows down-and-out producer Max Bialystock and his mild-mannered accountant Leo Bloom as they attempt to get rich from Broadway's biggest scam.

Finding the worst play ever written, Bialystock and Bloom hire the worst director in town, raise two million dollars and open on Broadway with a "guaranteed to close in one night beauty", the gloriously offensive and decadently inappropriate Springtime For Hitler.

"However, instead of producing 'the biggest flop in history', something inexplicably goes right for the pair, and we get to follow the characters dealing with the hilarious fall-out," says Kayleigh. "Brooks refers to The Producers as 'an equal opportunities offender': it's a humorous, clever and keen satire and send-up of many theatre traditions, character stereotypes and one certain historical baddie."

The team behind this JoRo production has been working hard to bring the spirit of Brooks and Thomas Meehan's show to life on a fundraising budget. Heading the production team is the aforementioned director Kayleigh Oliver, a business owner and 2012 masters graduate of the University of York's theatre, film and television department, who performs regularly with several York stage companies.

"The experience of leading this show has been fantastic," she says. "From absolutely nothing, we've brought together a performing cast of 27, going from auditions in October to a full musical spectacular in February.

"The show is of an incredible standard, and this is testimony to the talent and hard work of the community cast. There are so many great performers on the York theatre circuit, and it has been a pleasure to work with many of the regulars in this hilarious production, where we literally have never stopped laughing."

York Press:

Franz (Jonny Holbek), right, and Roger (Larry Gibson), left, point out to Leo (Rob Fisher) that it is "Bad Luck To Say Good Luck On Opening Night" in rehearsal for The Producers

Kayleigh is supported by regular performer Alex Schofield as assistant director, Kendra Bush as choreographer and Jessica Douglas as musical director.

Jessica, a University of York music graduate, musician and teacher, has put together an 11-piece orchestra to give life to the hit score.

"On stage, if you’ve seen other shows in the York area, you are bound to recognise some of the names and faces," says Kayleigh. Andrew Isherwood takes the pivotal role of Max Bialystock; Rob Fisher plays opposite him as gentle Leo Bloom and Jonny Holbek is the highly strung ex-Nazi Franz Leibkind.

Further roles go to Larry Gibson as exuberant theatre director Roger DeBris; Martin Lay as Carmen Ghia, Roger’s common-law assistant, and Nikki Ainscough as Swedish bombshell Ulla. The ensemble of Mark Simmons, Susan Blenkiron, Amy Lacy and Stuart Sellens, among many others, will play as many as five or six parts each.

Tickets for February 8 and 9's 7.30pm shows and February 10's 2.30pm matinee and 7.30pm performance are on sale at £10 to £14 on 01904 501935 or at

"All proceeds will go straight back to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre and will be used for the maintenance and improvement of the building, to make sure that the theatre community in York can benefit for years to come," says Kayleigh. "Tickets are going quickly, especially since we entertained locals during an open rehearsal at last weekend's York Residents' Festival, so we recommend booking to avoid disappointment."