Mel Brooks’ musical, The Producers, tells the story of struggling Broadway producer Max Bialystock and his nervous, shy accountant Leopold Bloom, who lives in a permanent state of worry. When Leo casually points out that Max could make more money from staging a flop than a hit, the pair set about finding the worst musical, the worst director and the worst cast.
“Springtime for Hitler” is the most crass, offensive and politically incorrect show to ever play on the Great White Way and the director at the helm, Roger De Bris, has only one mantra: “Make it Gay.”
As you can imagine, a show such as The Producers sails very close to the wind sometimes. However, the cast of this production delivers everything with such conviction and utter joy that you simply can’t help but laugh; and laugh I did. My sides hurt by the time I left the theatre and I was still laughing most of the way home.
As Max Bialystock, Cory English delivers a perfect performance. His singing voice is incredible; he’s a nifty dancer and his comedic timing was spot on. To watch him play opposite Jason Manford was an absolute joy. It should be noted that Manford was a revelation to me. I’ve only really known him for his stand up work and panel show appearances but last night he proved that he is a very gifted musical theatre performer. He played the role of Leo Bloom magnificently and he has the most beautiful singing voice, particularly in the higher register.
Phil Jupitus had the audience in stitches as Franz Liebkind, the German Nazi musical composer, and Tiffany Graves as Ulla also brought great joy. Louie Spence was, well, Louie Spence really, but he served a purpose and kudos to both Spence and director Matthew White for knowing what an audience would expect from him and not being afraid to deliver the OTT caricature. Certainly the Spence we see on TV was not out of place within the show.
While all the cast are exceptionally strong, it was David Bedella as Roger De Bris that stood out for me. His turn as the campest Hitler I have ever seen had me struggling to breathe as tears of laughter rolled down my face. He was hilarious from start to finish and I was not at all surprised to read that he was London’s Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and has also played Frank N Furter in Rocky Horror as both are roles I would love to see him in.
The Producers is a show that I was wary of initially, mostly because I never thought Manford would make it on the musical stage. How wrong I was, and how happy I am to be proven wrong! Everything, from the incredible choreography, to the dedicated and hard working chorus, from the amazing set design to the stunning performances from the main cast, was just brilliant.
The Producers is on tour now and if you want an evening of real belly laughs that leaves you really appreciating the joy of Springtime, make sure you catch it.
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