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Review: The Producers

Mel Brooks’ hilariously inappropriate smash hit “The Producers” is back in Manchester and it’s better than ever

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The Palace Theatre is no stranger to brilliant productions, and The Producers is absolutely no exception! The all-star cast featuring Jason Manford, Cory English, Phil Jupitus, Louie Spence (the list goes on and on) doesn’t disappoint.

Based on Mel Brooks’ 1968 musical film of the same name, the story follows washed up, sleazy producer Max Bialystock (English) and his anxiety stricken accountant Leo Bloom, as they try to make the worst Broadway production of all time as a means to commit fraud. Culminating with a Hitler-inspired musical… that ends up opening to critical acclaim.

Where does one begin with Cory English’s portrayal of Max Bialystock? There isn’t much to say apart from the fact that English was born to play the role. He’s sleazy, promiscuous and quite frankly hilarious. A ‘complete’ stage actor—a terrific singer, extraordinary dancer, and he commands the stage with tremendous aplomb. He stole the scene every time he appeared on stage.

We all know that Manchester-born comedian Jason Manford is hilarious, so it was evident that the comical nature of The Producers came naturally to him. His comic timing was on point and made for an uproariously funny portrayal of nervous, wimpy accountant Leo Bloom. Manford isn’t only a top-notch actor, but he is a brilliant singer to boot. Who knew he could switch from tenor to soprano in the blink of an eye?

Of course Phil Jupitus deserves a mention for splitting the sides of every audience member playing the erratic ex-Nazi pigeon keeper-cum-scriptwriter Franz Liebkind. One Tiffany Graves channeled the naïve but hilarious nature of Swedish (I assume) performer Ulla. Olivier-Award winner David Bedella put in a colourful (both literally and metaphorically) performance as camp director Roger De Bris, alongside his even more camp assistant, Carmen Ghia, played by the crowd-pleaser Louie Spence, who obviously based his performance on, well… Louie Spence.

photo: The Producers UK Tour 2015

Photo: The Producers UK Tour 2015

The production itself is not for the faint-hearted or easily offended. From Max getting frisky with a number of elderly ladies, to a plethora of gay dancing Nazis occupying the stage for a 10-minute show stopping number in Act 2, there’s something to offend everybody. Sounds crazy, right? It may sound crazy, but it works a treat.

The staging is brilliant, mainly set on a backdrop of New York City, with the scene changes occurring efficiently and smoothly and (more impressively) no need to blackout the stage! And all of the outfits are just amazing. Particularly during the performance of ‘A Springtime for Hitler’ which features a cornucopia of coruscating Nazi costumes each accompanied by shimmering swastikas, climaxing with Hitler in his ‘traditional’ gleaming golden garb. With lines like “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party!” inappropriate is probably the word you’re looking for.

Based on what they’ve managed to put on stage, The Producers is guaranteed to be a rampant success; outrageous, offensive and jaw-achingly hilarious!