REVIEW: The Producers, ahead of its arrival at Sunderland Empire

Jason Manford in The Producers.
Jason Manford in The Producers.
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A NEW tour of The Producers is shimmying across the country in all its camp glory. Katy Wheeler went along to review the show in Manchester’s Palace Theatre ahead of its arrival on Wearside.

SIDE-SPLITTING satire meets storm troopers in this slick revival of a modern-day stage classic.

With a musical from the pen of tongue-in-cheek master Mel Brooks you know the script is always going to shine. So the responsibility of whether a show like this will make it or break it is the cast.

Cue a star-studded bill including household names Jason Manford, Phill Jupitus and Louie Spence, as well as respected stage actors, Cory English and David Bedella, in this new touring production of the Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical.

In theory, this musical - which is technically a musical in a musical - shouldn’t work. Glittery swastikas, a flamboyantly camp Führer - that will never take off, surely! But it takes flight, fabulously.

And so we enter the world of New York has-been producer Max Bialystock, played incredibly deftly by Broadway and West End star Cory English, who has been impoverished by a string of flops and recruits downtrodden accountant Leo Bloom to get him out of a pickle and help him pull off Broadway’s greatest scam.

Louie Spence

Louie Spence

Together they aim to produce the worst show in history - that’s where the glittery Gestapo come into play - and run away to Rio with millions.

Leave your political correctness at the door as the show laughs in the face of facism. Never more so that in the character of Franz Liebkind, the tin-hatted Nazi brought on board to help Leo and Max pull off their scam.

Phill Jupitus induces chuckle after chuckle as the lederhosen lummox with a penchant for pigeons. His well-honed comic timing fits perfectly in this, one of the funniest musicals on the circuit.

But you get a clutch of comics for the price of one here. Jason Manford, a top comedian in his own right, is endearing as the bumbling Bloom and shows off a great set of pipes in the musical numbers.

Phill Jupitus

Phill Jupitus

Stepping into the camp shoes of film director Roger De Bris is award-winning stage actor David Bedella. He commands the stage as the man tasked with directing expected flop, Springtime for Hitler. However, when leading actor Franz literally breaks a leg on stage, De Bris steps into the breach and is gloriously camp as the all-singing all-dancing Hitler. So good in fact, the show becomes a hit.

In any other scenario you’d wince at lines like “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party!”, but with this show it just makes your jaw ache with laughter.

At Bedella’s side is renowned dancer Louie Spence, who as you’d expect, is effervescent with eccentricity as Carmen Ghia.* Amidst such a cast, it would be easy for this role of the director’s assistant to be somewhat outshone, but you can’t take your eyes off the Pineapple Dance Studio star as he prances and pirouettes across the stage.

Much like the jazzed-up swastikas of Springtime for Hitler, I’m sure this show will be a shimmering success.

The Producers

The Producers

•The Producers is at Sunderland Empire from May 11-16. Tickets are available in person at the Box Office from £10 or from £12.90 from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.

*Louie Spence will not be playing the role of Carmen Ghia in Sunderland.

David Bedella

David Bedella