Book: Mel Brookes and Thomas Meehan
Music and Lyrics: Mel Brooks
Director: Matthew White
Reviewer: Matt Yeoman
Fast-paced, energetic and laced with a touch of class, watching The Producers brings a bit of Broadway to the regions and true to the song, everything does go right.
Directed by acclaimed director Matthew White, this show is nothing short of brilliance. The comic timing of the entire ensemble, not least the big names in the cast is absolutely superb and it is evident that an incredible amount of rehearsal went into this show to not only chart every nuance but to conjure the most out of Mel Brooks’ brilliant script.
Set in New York, The Producers follows musical theatre producer, Max Bialystock (Cory English) on a comical journey as he attempts to produce the worst musical ever staged by hiring the campest director in the business, Roger De Bris (David Bedella) finding the worst play ever written – a play by Franz Liebkind (Phill Jupitus) and watching it fail so he can commit tax fraud and make millions. His partner in crime is his former accountant, Leo Bloom (Jason Manford) whose journey from a bumbling mummy’s boy to confident theatre producer, and indeed a man, is performed brilliantly by Manford. In fact, Manford’s performance of Bloom is (for all the right reasons) very surprising – audiences will be delighted to discover that Manford can sing, and not only sing, but sing really well!
Throughout their exploits various characters come and disappear, showing the depths Bialystock will go to do acquire his millions. Elderly female benefactors pay frequent visits to his office for sexual favours in turn for generous donations to his cause – scenes that play themselves out brilliantly and with most of the ensemble taking a rôle within this running joke, works brilliantly when his office is filled to the brim with sexually charged OAPs! It has to be noted that the ensemble themselves are absolutely exceptional with notable performances from Joel Montague and Aron Wild.
Of course the inclusion of Louie Spence leaves us with little doubt as to just how camp this production was going to be. From the moment we encounter his character Carmen Ghia the show is plunged into sequins, feathers and double-entendre with Spence making the most of his time on stage to show his pirouetting prowess and flamboyant flailing. He does not disappoint. The highlight of the show is, for those who know the show, Springtime For Hitler. The brilliance of the choreography for this section of the show is matched by the superb sequined costumes and staging by Paul Farnsworth. Lee Proud’s choreography is absolutely outstanding and throughout the show it gives a real pace, and tongue-in-cheek nod to the cabaret genre in all its gaiety.
The stars of the show are undoubtedly Bedella and English whose energy and movement skills are mesmerising. English’s rôle holds the show together and, of course, his incredible investment of energy keeps the pace. But it’s Bedella’s performance in Springtime For Hitler that really demonstrates the creative genius within this show as the subtleties of character and quality of performance really come to their peak with his portrayal of Adolf Hitler.
This is definitely a show not to be missed, thankfully, with a nationwide tour, there’s no excuse as to why everyone shouldn’t be able to see it.
Runs until 21st March, 2015, then touring until 4th July | Photo: Manuel Harlan