INTERVIEW: Ross Noble, The Producers, Sunderland Empire

Ross Noble appearing in The Producers at Sunderland Empire Theatre
Ross Noble appearing in The Producers at Sunderland Empire Theatre
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ROSS Noble will be swapping stand-up for swastikas from Friday.

He’ll be stepping into the leather lederhosen of Franz Liebkind in a new tour of classic Mel Brooks musical The Producers.

Ross Noble appearing in The Producers at Sunderland Empire Theatre

Ross Noble appearing in The Producers at Sunderland Empire Theatre

Not only will he be taking over from top comedian Phill Jupitus, whose last show is tonight, he’s joining a star-studded bill including fellow comic Jason Manford as Leo Bloom and West End stars David Bedella as Roger De Bris and Cory English as Max Bialystok.

More known for his improvisational comedy, Ross says he’s relishing the new challenge of playing a short-fused pigeon-keeping former Nazi.

“I came in at the start in the rehearsal room and met everyone in the run up to dress rehearsal, then I went off to Australia on tour, so it’s not like I’ve only come aboard now,” he said.

“I’d seen all the technical stuff, so I’d seen the shape of the show. I got input and found out what’s happening. It’s good because I’ve joined it when it’s up and running, so they’re 75 shows in.

COMEDY HIT ... The Producers is at the Sunderland Empire. Springtime For Hitler. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

COMEDY HIT ... The Producers is at the Sunderland Empire. Springtime For Hitler. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

“I saw it on Monday night, I just stood at the back with my hat on and lurked in the corner, so I could listen to the feedback from people in the bar. Everyone was saying they couldn’t believe how good Jason Manford was.”

Franz plays a pivotal role in helping Max and Leo pull off the worst musical of all time. Glittery swastikas, a camp Führer, tracks including Springtime for Hitler - what could go wrong?

Like the play within the play, The Producers is a glorious hit. Based on Mel Brooks’ beloved Academy Award winning movie, it’s notched up a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards and three Olivier Awards.

Ross said breathing new life into Mel Brooks’ words is what attracted him to the role.

The Producers

The Producers

“That’s what really made me do it, as a kid I thought Blazing Saddles (directed by Mel) was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. After that I saw the original Producers film when I was about eight or nine.

“I love the fact that the premise is to make the worst show ever. But the ensemble and David are so brilliant that the show within the show is brilliant. You end up thinking ‘I want to see this musical about Hitler.’”

The master surrealist, from Cramlington, Northumberland, honed his early acting skills at the People’s Theatre in Newcastle.

“What was great is that the youth theatre had a full size, fully-operational stage that few groups have. I did a lot of that as kid, which I enjoyed, but ended up discarding it because I thought stand up was clearly where my talents lie.

COMEDY HIT ... The Producers is at the Sunderland Empire. Jason Manford as Leo Bloom and Cory English as Max Bialystock. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

COMEDY HIT ... The Producers is at the Sunderland Empire. Jason Manford as Leo Bloom and Cory English as Max Bialystock. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Ross has been performing as a stand-up since the age of 15 and his wit has earned him Time Out, Barry and Manchester Evening News awards.

He’s unveiled a new sell-out stand-up show every year for the last 15 years.

Speaking of his foray into musical theatre, he said: “To find a show like this was perfect. All the cast are phenomenal singers and dancers, then me, Jason and Phill help bring the comic side to it.”

Appearing in this week’s Empire show has seen Ross return to Sunderland. He was last here in June last year to film an episode of Freewheeling, his comedy programme for the Dave channel.

He had been asking fans on social network site Twitter to suggest things for him to do and be part of the show.

Noble ended up in Sunderland after Fulwell man Brian Aslett tweeted him to ask for support at a case at the city’s county court.

“I’ve ended up spending more time in Sunderland this last year than ever before.

“I know there’s supposed to be this Newcastle / Sunderland rivalry thing, but I think that’s gone. I got nothing but an incredibly warm, friendly response.”

•The Producers is at Sunderland Empire until Saturday. Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.